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We teach our children our personal values such as kindness, compassion, and gratefulness.
We teach our children American values such as freedom of speech, equal opportunity, and freedom of religion.
Our elected leaders, we expect, will mirror these values and be leaders our children can model. Sure, not everyone’s perfect, and we’ve seen our share of less-than-stellar elected leaders.
But no one can deny that President Trump is, er, challenging to explain to children.
For our boys, we don’t really want them to model the brashness and bullying attitude Trump espouses.
For our girls, we have already had to explain to them that, yes, really, girls can be president, just not this time around.
For all our kids, the word “pussy” emerged with new and non-kitty-like vengeance during the election.
And this is just a start. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably already encountered some of these issues. You may be worrying more and more about what sort of dinnertime conversation you’ll be forced to have over the next Trump debacle. At this point you can start writing down controversial topics on notecards and drawing at random with enough content to last a year. I almost want a way to screen everything Trump says before he says it lest my kids be ruined for life. Many parents were even distraught when they discovered that their classes watched the inauguration speech on live television without prescreening it.
Our children are watching. They’re watching closely. It’s up to us parents to play goalie with the political missives being sent our kids’ way.
Let’s seize control of the moment and leverage the chaos to make our children better adults and perhaps ourselves better parents. What shall we do?
Discerning legitimate from illegitimate, facts from “alternative facts,” is one of our biggest challenges as modern parents. We can’t expect that our kids won’t be exposed to everything: the good, the bad, the ugly, the fake, the schemes, the thoughtful. Our jobs as parents have drastically shifted in the information age. Time is not on our side. But information is. The Trump era gives us a perfect platform for confronting an issue or statement, questioning the source, analyzing the data, and determining its value and accuracy. You may be giving your kids one of the best lessons of their lives by teaching them discernment. For eventually they will emerge as adults and be faced with an even greater onslaught of information. Teach your kids now how to handle overwhelming details with ease and wisdom.
Read to your children. The good books.
With social turmoil comes much good writing. Our children have a vast array of books that will arm them with the smarts necessary to stand up to big, bad bullies. There are lists upon lists floating about the Internet of books to help raise caring, loving, emotionally intelligent, humanitarian, and politically savvy children. Equal Goods has an amazing collection of books addressing diversity, peace, coming of age, gender equality and acceptance, and historic feminists and leaders.
Some of my personal favorites for civil rights bedtime reading are I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, Peace Is An Offering by Annette LeBox, The Journey by Francesca Sanna and a collective of refugees, and the entire Ordinary People Change the World series by Brad Meltzer.
Also as a plus with this activity, you get to spend more quality time snuggling and reading books with your kids!
Participate in civic engagement.
March with your child. Get involved in some grass roots campaigns. Stuff envelopes. Get out the vote. Call your congressperson (over and over and over again). These are all wonderful bonding activities that also have a social impact.
Our children are the future leaders of America. Civic engagement teaches them to take personal responsibility for the state of their country and that their voices matter. Your children will learn the importance of engaging as a citizen, and you’ll feel the feels of having taken action for a cause you believe in.
Michelle Obama said it all, “When they go low, we go high.” Trump is a bully. He attacks people personally over issues he disagrees with. I’m not going to repeat all the ways he has set a terrible example for our children.
Let’s turn this example on its head for our kids by teaching them that we don’t bully President Trump’s 10-year-old son just because we can. We don’t make fun of women working for Trump because of their bad outfits. That’s just stooping low.
When my sweet, docile 4 year old says to me that he wants to “Punch Donald Trump in the face,” maybe that’s a sign that my parenting has been a little too low in my own behavior. Our kids pick up when we bully back or ridicule as a defense when we feel attacked by Trump’s team. Stop calling Trump names. Let’s go high and focus on the issues.
Which leads to the next point:
Teach a civics lesson.
How exactly does our electoral college work? Bet you looked that one up. Now you have a perfect civics lesson about the differences between the popular vote and the electoral college.
Worried about a smattering of unconstitutional executive orders? Let’s set up a mock Oval Office for our kids to make some executive orders of their own and test whether they align with our Constitution. If they don’t, we can challenge the President’s actions as unconstitutional.
For more great civics ideas, just turn on the news. What’s an emolument? Can we really have a blackout on government agency communication? Let’s not just read and tweet about these issues angrily on our phones. Let’s research them, wise up, and become teachers ourselves. There’s no better time than now to teach your children what a democracy really means.
Keep calm and carry on.
Cliché, I know, but actually very true. Last week was a panicky week on Facebook. I had to shut it off a lot. It left me with feelings of overwhelm and depression. There seemed to be too much at once. The news seemed to be actually screaming at me through my screen.
It’s helpful to sit down and talk through the issues. It’s also helpful just to shut it off for a bit. Panicking doesn’t help anything. Careful issue analysis and advocacy does. What we’ve done around here to help calm the chaos is to find a few sources that we trust. Read those and digest the issues. And then read some opinions from the “other side,” but not from someone who flings mud with every sentence or uses scathing broad-brush statements. Pick a few that lean right and a few that lean left who can present the news calmly and matter-of-factly. And also who can present the news. A lot of times I have found myself clicking an article because it looks like something completely insane happened, but wait a second, it’s just clickbait. Don’t fall prey to scary headlines (even major mainstream news seems to be doing this more and more).
Currently I’m enjoying Dan Rather’s News and Guts stream. It seems to be curating the most relevant articles, and the commentary on each one is straightforward. It calms me down (slightly) and gives me the news.
Become a socially conscious consumer.
This isn’t a call to boycott everything that Trump has touched ever. That would almost be impossible (but more power to you if you can manage this). We can, however, put our money where our mouths are. And teach our kids about how to use our spending power to support good businesses and causes.
For me, socially conscious consumption means spending a little more time and maybe even money on my purchases to support companies working for social good as well as providing good products. We love companies that donate a percentage of profits or valuable products to needy communities. It also means working to consume less generally, focusing on appreciating what I have and reusing, recycling, and upcycling goods in my own home.
The lessons that come along with socially conscious consumption are incredibly valuable to kids. We can teach them to care for our environment and the concerns of global warming and water pollution in a positive way. We can show them that their actions compound with all the other kids of the world and can actually shape the future. This applies to shopping and to politics (two current examples are those flocking to Lyft for supporting the ACLU and to Airbnb for supporting refugees).
Help a neighbor.
Sometimes it feels like the world will bend and snap at every action of the President. We all know daily life goes on pretty much the same no matter what the President does. Immediate, local impact comes from community. Community participation helps others in need and helps ground you and your children when things feel out of control. When we’re feeling like our world might fall into shambles because of an executive order, let’s gather ourselves and try to focus on how we might help others. Doing good comes from each of us working together. Our children can participate with us as we make sandwiches, hand out blankets, and serve soup. Participate in community that really keeps our core knit together.
This will end. It’s not doomsday. In fact, out of the darkness comes great light. One bright light I see from this Presidency is that it has geared a lot of people into action. Frankly, I don’t see how our democracy won’t be stronger for this trial. And hopefully the electoral college will be weaker.
Break away from the news cycle.
While it’s important to know what is happening in the world, sometimes we spend too much time focused on the endless news stream and forgetting about the rest of life.
Enjoy some time with your kids.
Ask any kid who their favorite people to hang out with are and most will say it’s with their family. They want to spend time with us, not the local news anchor on a repeat loop. The best thing you can do during a Trump Presidency (or any presidency for that matter) is to teach by example. Hug your kids and cherish the little moments.
Life is short, and this too shall pass. Focus on pushing the good forward and keeping the bad in its place. We, our kids, our country, and our world will be all the happier for it.
Photo: Kristen Johnson
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