By Jessica Landgraf
We have hit the one-week post-election milestone. As the dust begins to settle, and more letters of condemnation roll in, we need to step back and think about the effects of this election on our youngest citizens.
Children Are Our Mirrors
As we can all attest anecdotally, children are sponges, soaking up information and learning from their environment. After 18-months of vicious political debate and hateful rhetoric, it is no wonder that post-election our schools have had to deal with increased bullying, intolerance, and hateful actions. These occurrences have been so widespread that the Southern Poverty Law Center coined a new term, “The Trump Effect,” following a survey of educators about the election’s effect on students and schools.
This is very concerning. Unfortunately we have little control over what other people say and do, and we are unable to choose the coverage given to the election by the media, but we do have the power to frame it differently for our children. There has been a concerted effort from educational institutions to condemn the actions of members of their communities that have brought hateful rhetoric onto their grounds. Teachers, professors, and administrators can condemn and penalize these actions, but those closest to children and young adults have the most influence and potential to impact what place private stances should have in public.
Talk to Your Children
Regardless of your political stance, your personal beliefs, or your feelings about this election, it is important to talk to your children. It is likely that they have begun to hold the same stances you do, but have less understanding about how and where it is appropriate to express them. Explain to your children why you voted for who you did, explain what is important to you, give them the opportunity to ask questions, and let them know that they can think differently.
Give them a lesson on the checks and balances built into our Constitution. Recount hard times our country has weathered, and the positive steps achieved despite long struggles. Explain the power that they have, even as children, to choose their actions and help others to contemplate their choices. You don’t have to be an adult to be a role-model.
United for the Safety of Our Children
I have read article after article over the past week, about the troublesome reactions of our citizens who are too young to vote. Many kids have been confronted with the thought of losing a parent, friend, or even the country they have come to know as their own. As adults, whether we be parents, teachers, bus drivers, or administrators, we need to make clear that we will protect our kids and keep them safe.
In a country divided, maybe more than ever, our children are our future; they may be the one thing that everyone can rally behind and work to protect. We may have to deal with a lot of change over the next four years, but let’s make a commitment to never waver on the needs of children.
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