Our kids need us to be strong for them

I don’t have to tell you the days immediately following the election were very difficult for LGBT people and their families and friends.

Out of far-right field came the unlikely, unconventional and certainly un-presidential upset candidate. His rhetoric, name-calling, bluster and blather were disconcerting enough, but it was his bragging about sexual assault, promises to deport immigrants, block entire segments of the population from entering the country, and to undo hard-won civil liberties of already marginalized folks, that put us over the edge.
This was clearly not politics as usual, and we were scared.

As difficult as it was for adults, it was even more terrifying for children. Kids
who had heard all the negativity of the campaign and how unsuited the Re¬publican candidate was for the highest office had gone to bed excited for the first woman president, but awoke to their stunned and bleary-eyed parents and the bad news. They did not have the perspective and experience to put aside cognitive dissonance.

According to many parents on social media, many of their trans and gay kids burst into tears, begged to move to Canada and were afraid to go to school for fear of open season on the disabled, people of color, and LGBT students. Family after family reported the fears and anxieties of their kids. Some youth even resorted to self-harming again, and in several cases, taking their own lives out of despair.

How do we talk to our children?

Explain Trumps surprise win? Reconcile what actually happened with what we have been teaching them all these years; choose your words carefully, stand up to bullies, do your homework, treat one another with respect, etc.? It is in tough times like this that we need to be the grown-ups. We need to be the stable foundation. We can show some of our feelings, but we must take care not to devolve into great anxiety, fear or dysfunction, even if we feel those things ourselves.
Speak to your kids in age-appropriate ways. For younger kids, you might marvel together that sometimes the “meanie” gets chosen. “Isn’t that silly? Well, maybe we’ll choose differently next time.
Let’s get out the Legos now.”

Reassure older ones that even when bad things happen, there are adults who will protect them and have their backs.

Teens may be interested in the statistics and demographics of the race. All kids can be redirected to think of positive things they can do: write letters, help neighbors, visit the elderly, practice kind acts, and just be the best person they can be.

A local family, who wishes to remain anonymous, did just that. They were reeling from the upsetting results of the election. As the mom described it, “We were all feeling such despair for a few days, and I felt like we needed to reclaim some power over our lives. As I told the kids, we can’t control the big stuff, but we can control some of the small stuff, and we can always control what we put out into the world.”

At the end of the day, their daughter exclaimed, “Mom, it makes me feel so good to make other people feel good!” They all enjoyed it so much that they decided to make it an annual tradition.

That’s what I’m talking about. Whether you have kids or not, heal yourself, then take that new, strengthened person you are and channel your energy into making your corner of the world a better place.
Be the hope. Be the change.

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