Is post-election acrimony affecting children?

Children were among the participants in an anti-hate rally at a Brooklyn park named in memory of Beastie Boys band member Adam Yauch after it was defaced with swastikas last week in New York City. The park and playground were spraypainted with swastikas and the message “Go Trump”.(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

After reading this Facebook post on post-election fears in children by Macon marriage and family therapist Amy Morton, I asked if I could share it here on the blog.

I continue to hear from teachers and parents about the impact this rancorous presidential election is having on children. The concerns of children cross ideology and party lines. A teacher in a rural school with a large immigrant population told me her fourth graders — even those whose parents supported Donald Trump — fret their classmates or soccer teammates from Mexico will be deported.

The divisiveness of this election and the bitter political fallout are reaching kids through social media and television. (This may be the moment to intervene in the 28 hours a week children ages 6-11 spend on average in front of the TV.)

Here is what Morton wrote:

For the last 22 years, I have been a family therapist, and, in that role, I have treated many, many children and teens. In the days since the election on Nov. 8, I have heard from many parents, teachers and others who work with children. What they are seeing in our children in the wake of the tenor of a brutal election season is troubling.

Regardless of the political ideology of their parents, the fear, anxiety and insecurity some children are experiencing is comparable to what I observed during the aftermath of 9/11. Parents describe free-floating anxiety, excessive worry, irritability and many questions. It’s not just kids who are being bullied or who are in a suspect class that may fear discrimination who are experiencing this. It’s also children who witness these acts or merely observe and listen to fear expressed by others.

Children watch television, listen to their parents’ discussions and are consumers of social media. Right now, many are absorbing the anxiety expressed there and may not have the tools they need to process what they’re hearing and seeing.

Here’s the bottom line: right now, children are watching, listening and looking to trusted adults for understanding and support. Here are a few suggestions of things you can do to help your children — and teens — cope. I hope this is helpful.

1) Turn off the TV. A heavy diet of 24-hour news will make anxiety worse. Younger children think very literally. Imagine their reactions when they hear talking heads make provocative statements — or fight with each other. Turn the channel.

2) Talk with your kids. Ask them how they’re doing, what they think about the election, what they are hearing from peers. Have a dialogue. It is the best way to know how they are processing things and a good opportunity to help them separate fact from fiction and clam unrealistic fears. Don’t assume you know what they are feeling — listen.

3) Take a stand against bullying. They may be hearing hateful rhetoric either from adults or peers. Encourage them to talk about it and let them know that bullying is unacceptable — whether done to them or by them.

4) Watch your words and demeanor. Your children will take their cues from you. Remember that little ears interpret things very literally, so if you are on the phone with Aunt Jane, and they overhear you expressing your fear that the president-elect can’t be trusted with the nuclear codes — imagine the fear you are seeding.

5) Focus on the present. Reassure them that they are safe right now, and that you are there to make sure they stay safe. While it is important to be honest, it’s also important to shield children from information they are developmentally not ready to process.

6) Monitor children’s social media. As you know, Facebook, Twitter and all the much cooler platforms kids use are flooded with posts about the election — and often about how we should all be afraid. We should always pay attention to our children’s social media — but especially now.

7) Engage children in constructive activities. To address the things they are concerned about or that you want them to learn about, model productive advocacy yourself. For example, if you hear hate speech or witness discrimination, and your child is present, say something. Especially during the holiday season, there are many opportunities to volunteer to help others. Find something that fits and include your children in the activity. Your actions will speak louder than any words.

Our children are watching the way we deal with the aftermath of one of the most divisive elections in our history. As they do, we can be honest with them, instill good values and allow them to learn the lessons of this election without feeding their fear.

 

Reader Comments 0

35 comments
Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

As others have noted, if school age children are upset at the election, it is because their family members are running around crying like Hillary supporters on election night - which, by the way, was the funniest thing I have seen on tv since Red Skelton went off the air.

Tell you what, if the kids are still upset, bring them over to the Lee household.  We're happy over there.  No tears at all.  

Will be even happier in January when we watch the most pathetic president in history walk out of the White House for the last time.  Sorta like during stormy weather when the clouds break and a ray of sunshine comes beaming down.

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

IT WILL BE SO BAD THAT LIBERALS WILL HAVE THEIR SUCKERS TAKEN AWAY FROM THEM RIGHT ON THE STREET, AND THE GOVERMENT GRANTS TO FUND READING OF BEDTIME STORIES WILL DRY UP, that's how bad it will be

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Astropig @MaryElizabethSings


What a cruel man you are.  I feel sorry for you, Astropig, but I wish you well.


You have no idea how I think, in spite of your arrogance to assume that you do know.


And, I see that you have now deleted your comments above in which you stated that you hoped that I lost all of my Social Security and lived a long life in poverty.  

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

Krugman is no Economist, he is just another Liberal Socialist who thinks debt is always good with never any adverse affects

Astropig
Astropig

@Infraredguy


You want to see where Krugman-type economic policy leads countries that follow it? Try Japan.


Lots of roads and bridges to nowhere,massive social spending that keeps the government involved in everyone's lives,government bureaucrats at MITI controlling everything,propping up zombie banks...The list of Krugman nostrums would fill a book.They're living  his faculty lounge theories over there and their debt- to- GDP ratio is even worse than Greece.Like us,they intend to pay this off with their printing press,which is just a massive fraud on their creditors,when you get down to the nub of it.That's our future here if we keep listening to Paul Krugman and his ilk.

pay4play
pay4play

Throughout this election the mainstream media have acted as the publicity arm of the Clinton campaign: painting the opposition in lurid and dishonest tones.

Now we are to believe the media wants to remedy this?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

To Ed Johnson:

I have just now posted a response to your inquiry of me regarding the school choice movement as shown through charter schools, President Obama's worldview as consistent with a collaborative philosophy, and Thomas Jefferson's egalitarian vision for America and our world, as it spills over to Obama's vision today related to education.


Thank you, again, for the depth of your thinking.

Astropig
Astropig

Both these kids and their parents have been made victims of a media narrative that just isn't true.Of course they're scared and anxious-anyone would be with the hysterical,unbalanced,fact- free coverage of our political process over the last 18 months.The world is not ending.These are not the end times.


We've faced these crossroads in America in times past and survived them and thrived-precisely because we don't give in to our fears and prejudices.A well informed public is the best defense against whatever boogeyman that ascends to our highest office.That goes for left wing,right wing...You name it.It's when we become mere consumers of whatever the media elites dish out,instead of critical thinkers that question "received wisdom" and become disengaged with our society that we become sheep.It's easy to be scared all the time when all you ever hear is gloom and doom.


I agree with the poster that urged parents to turn off the TV.Good start.But I also think that making an effort to become better informed would go a long way toward allaying this irrational fear that we're all doomed because of one election.I've seen the end of the world too many times in my life to get all worked up like some of these people seem to be.It's our national shame that the media feeds this.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Astropig


What you have missed is the fact that Donald Trump has said words, or proclamations, which have caused fear in people throughout the world.  


Believe it or not, words matter.  Words follow thought by the way, and most of the thoughts and words of Donald Trump have been self-oriented, dangerous, and destructive. People throughout the world have only reacted to his words and his power, now that he will become president of the United States. They know that he, with that kind of power, can affect their lives very adversely.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings @Astropig


We survived some pretty bad presidents.(I mean,we're just about to say adios to one of the worst), so I think we'll survive Trump.


Don't you have to get ready for Castro's funeral? What are you doing hanging out here?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Astropig @MaryElizabethSings


President Obama has had a principled trajectory for this world that would have fostered the continuation of humanity based on reason and care for others.  Hillary Clinton was his protege.  Donald Trump's trajectory for this world is full of self-interest first and foremost, acrimony, irrationality, and destruction for humanity.


Your post above reflects the spirit of Donald Trump, not the spirit of Barack Obama.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

One daughter is a second grade teacher in an area with a lot of Latinos (although not so much at her school.)  She reports upset kids.


Younger daughter teaches at a a diverse college.  Her international students, although here legally, are also very upset.


So yes, I think it is having a profound impact.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady If they are here legally, why are they upset.  Unless some of their friends are illegals.  Just so everyone is clear, there is no hated of LEGAL immigrants, in fact there is no HATRED of illegals - we just want laws enforced.  Our college students have laws about the 21-year-old drinking age enforced, so immigration laws should likewise be enforced.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Wascatlady

Moreover, those with serious illness are fearful that the ACA will be taken away from them, and people throughout the world - recognizing Donald Trump's irrational and highly sensitive temperament - are fearful of war forthcoming.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

Funny how adults become more child like when they don't get their own way!  Few children  between the ages of 16 to 18 are aware of the cold war mentality, or afraid. These children that are afraid that legal immigration will be the end of the world need more adult supervision.

As adults we tell children there are laws and rules and that we must obey. Not this list of ideas that should only be followed if it 's convenient or feels good. 

Betsy
Betsy

I am a parent of five adopted children--3 Black, 1 Latino, 1 Caucasian. The morning after the election the first thing one of my children said was, "are we going to have to move?" That night at dinner the whole conversation was about The Border Wall that might be built. Their fears are real. All my children were born in the United States but they still have a lot of anxiety about what will happen with our new president. So unnecessary

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Betsy You have five legal children and they are afraid they might be deported? WHAT THE HECK HAVE YOU BEEN TELLING THEM?  Children's fears start with adults' conversations.  Quit expressing doomsday talk and tell them we will learn to live with a different viewpoint in the White House - conservative children sure did for the last eight years. Why would your children care about a Border Wall - do they have friends in Mexico that want to enter illegally?

betsybockman
betsybockman

We haven't discussed politics at all with the children. It is what they hear and pick up from the world around them. Raising minority children in a majority white world makes you look at things differently. It is understandable why my Hispanic son is concerned about a wall to keep others like him out. They are children. They are not anti Trump. They are pro friend and family

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Betsy


That one highly egotistical man could inflict this much pain on so many people not only throughout America, but throughout the world, is immoral and destructive beyond words to express.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

To class80olddog,

You are either very foolish in that assessment or you are in complete denial of truth.

Here's_to_Blue
Here's_to_Blue

Excellent article.  However, I fear that way too many of our citizens have the "suck it up, buttercup" attitude or else outright deny that children are experiencing these fears.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Here's_to_Blue  And as responsible adults and parents we must comfort these children and also be honest. No one to date knows whether Trump will be good or bad. As a nation it is time to support your president and be optimistic about the future.