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Parents share how they told their kids about President Trump

I'm Parenting Editor at SheKnows. I'm the co-author of Let's Panic About Babies(Macmillan, 2011). I've also written for numerous publications including Salon, Redbook, Nerve, and The Onion. I live in Brooklyn with my husband, son, tiny d...

'We will get through it together' and more reassuring wisdom

Full disclosure: I was (and am) an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter. The news of Trump’s victory hit me and my family hard. We all went to bed at 10 p.m., shaky but hopeful that Clinton was going to pull through in the end — and then woke up in the morning to the news that we had been very, very wrong. That our country is far more divided than we could have guessed.

I was plenty upset this morning, but one thing I didn’t worry too much about was my son Henry’s reaction. He’s 14 and has been trying out maintaining an ironic distance from much of life. I don’t normally enjoy the cynical act all that much, but this morning, it was honestly something of a relief. Don’t get me wrong. He wasn’t thrilled. But he wasn’t as devastated as, I think, 10-year-old Henry would have been.

But while I got off easy, many parents faced an enormous challenge. How do you comfort your kids, offer perspective and wisdom, when you’re struggling with the news yourself? I reached out to my community to find out how they broke the news. Their words, honestly, made me feel better. And I’m an adult! I hope they do the same for you, no matter which way you voted. We could all use a little love right now.

"Our family will remain strong"

As they went to school (knowing that emotions would be running high), I told them to show everyone compassion and to be better than this. I also told them they were loved and that our family will remain strong — even if marriage equality is reversed, even if the ability to discriminate against our family for religious reasons becomes law, we will always be a family and will get through it together.

— Vikki R.

"We have to work harder"

Here's what my husband told my kids this morning: 

“This is how it works. A lot of people disliked him less than her. But this is why we have checks and balances. So we have to work harder to stand up for people. We have to be kinder and stronger."

— E.M.

"We got through it"

I told him the story about how when I was 10 Reagan was elected and I saw my dad cry for the first time because he was so sad and worried about the world with someone like him in charge. I told him about how scared I was and how scary it seemed at the time and how we got through it. That calmed him somewhat. Then I played the Hamilton card, reminded him about how all his heroes in that play didn't give up when things got really bad. That their love for their country overcame ridiculous odds.

— Alana R.

More: Headmaster's letter to teachers is actually genius parenting advice

"All parents want what’s best for our kids"

We talked about how there are no guarantees in life. And how character is defined not by how we behave when things are going our way, but how we behave when things aren’t.

Then I reassured them that we need to try and see the world as one in which all parents want what’s best for our kids — even if we don’t always agree on the right way to get there.

— Liz Gumbinner, Cool Mom Picks

"We can’t move away from our problems"

One of Laurel’s first questions this morning was whether we were moving to Canada (not a completely weird question given that Jon and I lived in Canada while I did my Ph.D., and I am a huge fan of Justin Trudeau). And I said, “No, we can’t move away from our problems, we need to move towards them.” Part of privilege is the ability to move away from problems — which leaves people in need behind. It’s just not an option. We need to deal with what is in front of us.

— Christine Koh, Boston Mamas

"We will stay safe"

I told my daughter, who is very anxious, that we will stick together and fight for what's right and support others who are doing the same. That nothing will change right away, that we will keep her safe and we will stay safe, that there are many other people who feel the same way that we do. That sometimes bad things happen.

— Sarah W.

"Maybe someday"

Our daughter asked if this means Hillary can have a turn next time. And we told her [that] next time there would be a different election. Eleanor said, will another girl get to be president? And we had to tell her that we honestly didn't know, but that we sure hope that there is another smart, kind woman who runs for president. Maybe someday her or one of her friends.

And then I made her go eat breakfast so I could cry in the bathroom.

— E. H.

"We have to show up for each other"

I told my kids that today is the first of many days when it is even more important for us to show up and speak up. That we have to show up for each other, and for our friends who don't have the privilege we have. To think of something that makes them feel courageous, and hold it in their heart. To take care of themselves, that we need to sleep, and drink water, and eat good food so that we have the stamina we need. And of course I told them that I love them.

 — Angie F.

"Soon you will outnumber the old white guys"

This was my son's first time voting. It was not a good way to find out that storybook endings don't always exist. He and all his friends are against bigotry and misogyny, and I said "Every year, more young people who have a different world view will turn 18. Soon you will outnumber the old white guys."

 — Jody L

"This too will pass"

I reassured her that this too will pass. Our country has always dealt well, if not belatedly, with big problems that affect a large proportion of our population and Trump's victory is no exception. This win was our country screaming out against Washington's obliviousness to the rural poverty devastating the vast majority of this nation's real estate. We need to deal with that and Trump’s election to the Presidency is a reflection of that. Whether he can deliver the jobs or not... only time will tell.

— Anne W.

"The President doesn't just get to barge in"

I reminded mine that the President doesn't just get to barge in and do things — that cooperation is needed from the Senate and the House and the court. But it felt hollow when I said it and so I pointed out that they'll be old enough to vote in the next election and that we'd just have to do our level best 'til then. Then we ate Halloween candy.

— Jenifer M.

More: 7 moms talk about turning boys into good men

"We'll all keep doing our best"

I walked them outside and said, "Look at all the people going to work and going to school. We'll all keep doing our best and the world will not end." That last part I said with more hope than conviction. But in a brutal election hangover of a morning, it was the best I could muster.

— Lili Z.

"This is how America works"

I explained this is how America works and even though the presidential election is over there are battles to be fought every day for the people we care about. He said he was afraid to go to school (we live in PA — and it went red) so I gave him some conversation tools, like "let's not talk about politics." And I said he can write or draw his feelings out.

— Dresden S.

"We will continue to work for the good"

I assured him that we as a family will continue to work for the good, to use our voices in everyday and big moments to stand with people who have not had a voice. I spoke to him of his privilege as a young, white male who is being educated and cared for and how it is time for us to dig deep, to pray, to work for the good, to hold hope — on the playground, in our jobs, in our home, in our church, in our community. We will read and pay closer attention, we will make connections with the history he is learning and where our nation is today. We will not stop talking and praying and being activists. I assured him that some very strong and smart women who were elected in Illinois bring us promise of change and more equity right here in our city and state, which is greatly needed and greatly impacting our schools.

— Jessica A.

"It will be their generation"

I told them this is why I devote my work to teaching critical thinking and media literacy at a city college. I also told them how important it is that they work hard and that it will be their generation who must [make an] effort to change the world for the better.

— Margaret P.

"Resilience was the attitude we'd have to take"

My kids are 17 and young adults. After several aghast texts and Snapchats while watching the election results from different houses, we decided resilience was the attitude we'd have to take. Then I watched Colbert and figured a bit of humor could help.

— Julie A.

"It's OK to be upset"

Both my sons (Black/Latino/Autistic) cried. My oldest is scared for his classmates. He's asking a lot of questions about what this means and I'm being honest in saying I don't know. I've told them it's OK to be upset and be sad and be angry. I've also re-affirmed their worth as human beings and told them I'll keep fighting for them and their friends. I don't know how just yet, but I will be even more engaged in confronting racism/xenophobia/sexism/hate. But I said for today we can feel what we feel.

— A.N.

"We will never live in fear"

I’m in the wrong country, but still had worried children this morning. I told them that we will never live in fear: It's a silly place to live, and people who live there make bad decisions.

— Antonia C.

"We would continue to live the way we always have"

I told them that we would continue to live the way we always have, loving God, doing good to others, and speaking up when anyone was mistreated. No one will take that away from us, ever.

 — Shari S.

"Respect the decision"

I told them that democracy doesn't always go the way we want it to go, and that our job now is to respect the decision and be our best selves despite it. I told them that all we can control is how we react and that we need to continue to be kind and helpful and defend people who are mistreated.

— Nichole E.

"We have to be kind"

I told him we voted and did our best. Now we have to be kind and look out for the rights of our friends. And keep voting. And maybe he can run for office someday and be one of the good ones.

— Susan M.

"We will stick together"

We told them that this is scary for our family because [Trump] does not support gay marriage and he will have a terrible impact on the black community. (We are a biracial gay family.) We assured them that no matter what happens in the country, we will stick together and get through it as a family."

— Cassie B.

"We're going to look into helping LGBTQ kids"

My daughter and I decided that for a start we're going to look into helping LGBTQ kids around America, by giving money to their crisis centers.

— Jennifer L.

"Our voices are sometimes all we have"

I told my sons we keep fighting. That complacency is dangerous. That we won't look away when we see something wrong. That our voices are sometimes all we have and we never should be afraid to use them. And that I love them so, so much.

— Tara L.

"We will remember to not judge"

When I told my 5-year-old this morning about Trump, we agreed that we will remember to not judge people by their politics, but by their kindness and actions, and to look out for anyone who is being hurt by people with different beliefs. Then she asked me for a heart-shaped sandwich for lunch. We can all use a heart-shaped sandwich today.

 — Meg N.

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