Many have referred to the 2020 election as the most important in recorded history. With an uncontrolled pandemic causing unprecedented shifts in our social constructs, a racial reckoning, and economic uncertainty—managing emotions about the unknown has become more difficult than ever. While initiating a conversation about the election and politics with our children can be scary, these novel challenges have forced parents to confront ideals about effective national leadership and its impact on their child’s future. Below I discuss the importance of using an emotionally conscious approach to facilitating political dialogue with children, and tips for how parents can be effective.
Encourage emotional intelligence
Consuming news media in 2020—especially around the election— requires tremendous emotional intelligence. In order to navigate the never ending stream of news and media, we first have to understand how our emotions are moving through us, and how they influence our overall well being. Maintaining a heightened awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment—through a gentle, nurturing lens—will help both parents and their children effectively identify and manage negative emotions and prevent unhealthy behaviors and coping mechanisms.
Learn alongside your children
Managing all of the unknowns right now is hard enough, and we certainly do not need the pressure of having to have all of the answers to the political process. That said, if children are old enough to understand what they’re hearing, it’s our responsibility to help them process the noise. Talking to our children about politics is a great opportunity for connection, but more importantly—an opportunity for us to learn together. Give children space to ask questions, and model the attitudes and values they want to see our leaders embody. Listening skills might seem simple, but in a world where everyone is bombarded with notifications and alerts, it’s more difficult than ever to stay in the moment. Remember that your kids are constantly watching and listening, so use every opportunity to model active listening and effective communication skills.
Balance activism with self care
Many parents are feeling the idealistic responsibility to do their part, but it’s important to remember that you cannot solve every problem. By taking a more methodical approach to understanding how the issues we face make us feel—we can determine what matters most, prioritize what is feasible, and engage our children in devising solutions—turning feelings of anxiety into activism.
At this point it may feel like there’s so much out of our control. But it is possible to regain a feeling of control by practicing empathy and cultivating emotional intelligence with ourselves and our children. This will be the impetus for positive change in our homes, our communities, and our world.