How Do We Explain Trump World to our Children?

Hate. Misogyny. Intolerance. Pussy grabbing… What kind of world are we living in now and how do we explain it to our children?

In January 2017, I attended the women’s march in Boise, Idaho with my one-year old son strapped to my back in his pale pink snowsuit. I can only describe this moment like being inside a powerful, beautiful feminist snow globe. As the march started, I began to wonder…we are marching, but what else can I do?

What I could not shake from my mind was hearing about recent emboldened messages of hate that included shouts of “go back to where you came from” and “you’re not welcome here.” I wondered what sorts of messages my son would be getting from this new administration. An administration led by a man who lacks empathy, tolerance, and has openly disavowed most immigrants (Norwegians and Eastern Block models are A-OK). This administration’s message is clear. It is one of hate, rage, and rants. Sadly, it’s become what we exchange with friends and relatives who #MAGA. Angry rhetoric warning of menacing mobs lining up ready to storm our borders intensified calls to “build the wall” to the point of a government shutdown. However, following this last election where the House flipped, and a record number of women will now serve in Congress, politicians on both sides of the isle need to make a concerted effort to bring back civility and renew conversations touting tolerance.

My worry for my son, and for all children, is how does all this national tension affect development? What would my son and others learn from the hate? And how do I redirect those messages into teachable moments? My worries are shared by millions of Americans who also believe that President Trump and his agenda of bigotry, misogyny, and xenophobia is creating a world for our children that we do not approve of. So, on that snowy day in 2017, I vowed to do something about it.

As child psychologist Dr. Ava Siegler noted, “I believe that we are in the midst of a national disaster and parents are our first responders.” I couldn’t agree more, but how do you explain hate, exclusion, and other disagreeable values to a child who doesn’t know any better? I consider myself to be well-educated. I have a PhD in neuroscience and a background in psychology, which you would think makes me a qualified person to understand and explain bad behavior, however, as I learned over the past two years, just because you can recognize a problem, does not mean you can explain the problem, especially to children. I learned that in order to resist these messages of hate, I had to create a new message, one that resonated with children and adults alike. So, I wrote a picture book called Catalina and the King’s Wall. Since it is a children’s story, even Trump could understand it.

Catalina is the king’s royal (but not loyal) baker. Her family lives in the nearby kingdom, and they are coming to visit her soon. One day Catalina overhears the king plotting to build a wall between the kingdoms because the nearby people are “different.” Catalina bakes and butters while plotting a plan. Her baking is a cover for her resistance. Every treat she creates belies her real motives, outsmarting the king. She persists. Ultimately, Catalina and the King’s Wall is a tale of welcoming and accepting people, no matter where they visiting are from or what they look like.

Do I still have the anxiety that I’ve had over the last two years now that we are at the two-year anniversary of the Women’s March? Yes, and I imagine you do as well. Am I proud of my resistance and my efforts to reframe messages of hate and intolerance? Absolutely. But like you, I take solace in knowing that we can change things for our children if we provide them with the right messages, especially at early learning stages.

And of I think of every person who is #ragebaking or #sheetcaking or says #metoo or #noborderwall. Reframing narratives of hate into consumable lessons for our children wasn’t exactly on my mind that day as I marched in the snow. But I guess it was on my heart. It still is.