What to Tell Your Kids The Morning After the Election

Tell them you love them. Hug them. Look in their eyes. Tell them that even though they might be too young to remember a president before Obama, that we have seen many horrible presidents (truly) and that we lived through that, we will live through this.

Tell them that there is a kind of security and safety that comes from families sticking together and from neighbors being like family to each other. Remind them one by one of the people they know who are brave and loving and strong who love them. Tell them that these people are part of what makes our life good and we will continue to stay close to one another and take care of each other. Even more than before.

Tell them that they are about to see a wave of love and justice and caring that they didn’t know could exist before. Tell them that for every unfair or unjust thing that might happen in this presidency, there will be a hundred more people standing up for what is decent and right. Tell them that you are going to be one of those people and that they can be one of those people, too. Then be it. Be it. Be it. Be it.

When they ask you how this could have happened, when it looked so much like it was NOT going to happen, tell them that life surprises us sometimes. That we do not always get what we want. That sometimes we have to work harder than we thought. And that the unexpected thing is sometimes the very thing needed to wake everyone up to what is truly most important.

When they ask the millions of questions kids ask that have no answers, tell them you do not know. Or if you know, that yes, that thing is a possibility. But that underneath all the things that might happen tomorrow or next year or the next year, there is what is happening RIGHT NOW, and that right now asks us to stick together, no matter what. And to be curious and kind to those who see things very differently than we do.

Notice the catastrophizing that is coming out of you so quickly so naturally is a sign of you being traumatized and afraid, too. The cure for that very understandable fear is to keep your body moving and also to receive love. So put on Eminem and dance like an idiot in the kitchen. And then ask someone in the house to hold you, before you go on and on about the seemingly inevitable horrible future. You’re allowed to ask anyone for this. Anyone at all in your house, in the driveway, in the supermarket, on the street. You are allowed to dance anywhere, too.

Yes, do whatever it takes to move that fright through your system, so you can look at those kids clean and clear in the eye. And if the fear stays, it’s okay. Sometimes it’s okay to just lay on the couch, no talking, and keep each other within arms’ length. Sometimes it’s okay to cry and rail and say I have no idea what’s happening, but I’m sure that I love you, and that you love me, too.

And don’t forget to tell them that the disappointment and fear we feel this morning, might be new to us, and a shock, but that it is not new to the world. Right now, there are kids waking up all over, who do not have perfect presidents, in fact, some of them have horrible governments and horrific leaders or no leaders at all, and still they find a way to play, to run around, to sing. Even when our country is sometimes part of the reason things aren’t strong where they are.

You will say half as many words as they need or no words at all, if the hug is enough. And if you don’t have any words even though words are needed, you’ll lay down with them for a few minutes every night, and just breathe, until the rhythm of your breath matches. Until you don’t just know you’re together, you can really feel it.

And if they are too big or too mad or too gone already, you will hold in your mind’s eye the memory of when they were newborn in your arms. And you will hold them close if only in your passing daydream for just a second, until you remember the cord that connects you, that can never be broken really, whether everyone can lean into that sense of being together, or if they insist, like children must as they stretch to grow, to find their wings alone.