Parenting Through the Election

Parenting Through the Election
There is no doubt that the election will stir big feelings...both nationally and perhaps in your own household. How do we guide our children in conversation about the election through the lens of empathy, caring and inclusion? Here are 5 SEL (social-emotional learning) tools for parenting through the election... A message from Genevieve to the parent community...

A message from Genevieve, PS1's Child Development Specialist:


Dear Parents,

There is no doubt that the election will stir big feelings...both nationally and perhaps in your own household.

How do we guide our children in conversation about the election through the lens of empathy, caring and inclusion?

Here are 5 SEL (social-emotional learning) tools for parenting through the election:

Tool 1: Center and Steady Ourselves: It's important that you are able to find your own place of peace before any conversation. Take a pause, take a quick scan of your thoughts, your feelings, your body. Set an intention for yourself...what do you wish for yourself right now?

Tool 2: Check-In: Do a quick check-in with everyone prior to a conversation. This can be as simple as "how are you feeling right now?" It can be a rating scale, "on a scale of 1 - 10, how are you feeling right now?" It's important for everyone to be self-aware of how they are feeling so emotions can be managed in a productive and supportive manner.

Tool 3: Active and Reflective Listening: Agreements help to set up safety and boundaries for a conversation. Ask the question, "what do you need to carry this conversation forward?" Think what you might need...examples can include:
  • Speaking from an "I" perspective
  • Assume positive intent
  • Give space and grace
  • Accept silence as part of the process
  • Stay curious
Active and reflective listening includes noticing what is happening inside your own mind and staying focused on the person who is speaking. Reflecting on a listening experience can include language such as :
  • "It sounds like you..."
  • "I think I understand that..."
  • "Tell me more about..."

Tool 4: De-escalate: If a conversation becomes escalated, how do we maintain inclusive discourse. Language for constructive disagreement can include:
  • "From my point of view..."
  • "I think I have a different perspective on that..."
  • "I think it is important that we consider..."
  • "Your opinions have made me think about..."
With older children (pre-teens and teens) and family members, language that can help get to clarity can include:
  • Opening: "Let me try to articulate it from your perspective," or "What I think I'm hearing you say..."
  • Clarifying and Deepening questions can include: "What am I missing?" What am I not getting?" "Am I getting this right?"
Allow your child to ask the same of you.

Tool 5: Coping Ahead: This is about problem solving and thinking about things ahead of time. Steps can include:
  • State a problem
  • Think of 3-5 ways it can turn out
  • For each way, how will I respond, what feelings might I feel...
  • What will I think, say, or do?
  • What is out of my control, what can I let go of?
This exercise can give children a sense of agency, if they are able to think about and process a potential problem ahead of time.

You may not need all of these tools, but if you choose to have a conversation with your family about the election, key takeaways can include:

  • Share your views on the reasons you are voting for your candidate with your children. Help them to understand how you think critically and deeply about issues that matter to you. Show them how you get information to make decisions.
  • Focus on examples of your candidate's direct action and behaviors that align with your view. Avoid labeling the other candidate as a "bad or good person." Invite them to be more curious than certain.
  • Find/Share ways you stay connected with family and friends with whom you disagree.

I hope these suggestions can provide a framework for you to have positive discussions with your children and families through this election.

Please find a New York Times article which is also informative:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/30/parenting/election-stress-kids.html?campaign_id=118&emc=edit_ptg_20201031&instance_id=23648&nl=nyt-parenting&regi_id=71357179&segment_id=43006&te=1&user_id=2035eadb16d12eb2246b639071750af8

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