Kids & Families First: Responding to Our Children During These Unpredictable Times
Wednesday, November 16, 2016 3:31 PM
The pollsters and pundits were wrong, misguiding a voting population trusting they were accurately predicting the outcome of an election more contentious than what most of us have witnessed in our lifetime. What seemed like a never-ending campaign season finally came to an end. For the many Clinton supporters, a cloud of gloom and shock descended, while those voting for Trump experienced elation. I never intended to be a voice for political commentary or preferences for political candidates in this column, intentionally staying away from offering my perspective on any political agenda. Yet this election was like no other, compelling me to address the residual effects that are concerning.
Judith Hatch Orme, MSW, LCSW, has an office at 69 Elm Street in Camden. A parenting specialist, counselor, consultant, and family mediator, she provides workshops, teacher trainings, parenting consulting, counseling for children, parents, couples and families, and divorce mediation. To schedule appointments, receive her electronic newsletter, or customize a workshop/staff training, contact her at 603-801-6382 or email email@example.com.
Perhaps we were all too complacent, believing whatever we “assumed” would certainly meet most, if not all, our expectations. Whether we supported Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, I think we can all agree that a climate of divisiveness and anger has prevailed during this period. Several parents contacted me the day after the election, expressing concern on how to respond to their young children’s reactions, having questions about whether they would still be safe and protected under a Trump administration. My biggest concern was where and how the seeds of those comments are planted. Make no mistake that children overhear and observe our behavior, being the emotional “barometers” that they are.
For me, what’s most deflating is how this election is polarizing our communities around the values of empathy, kindness, compassion, respect, acceptance, and unity. More than ever, we need to stand together, to remain connected, to be tolerant of our differences. When we’re divided, we exemplify a “we-they” mentality, believing that we are somehow better and smarter than “the others.” So much of the campaign rhetoric on both sides was demeaning, derisive, and seriously problematic. That language doesn’t fit with how we want to raise our children, support our families, grow resilience, or weave the fabric of a strong community.
Let’s consider what we want to model to our children, knowing that some felt scared, insecure about their safety and future. What are they hearing from parents, caregivers, in their schools and in their towns? How do we expect our children to learn tolerance, respect, responsibility, and kindness, if not from our own example? Do we only treat our friends and those who share the same political ideology with these values?
This is a time when bullying on many levels and within different arenas is prevalent. Racism, sexism, homophobia are heightened. It is the responsibility of schools and parents to ensure that the rights of all children are protected, regardless of race, gender, culture or religious affiliation, keeping them safe from bullying and discrimination. I do believe in the concept that it “takes a community to raise a child,” which means working together, transforming the attitude of prejudice and injustice to ensure our children are emotionally, mentally and physically healthy.
Most important, this election underscored that people have been feeling isolated, marginalized, angry, and fearful. It’s a time to reinforce our strengths, lifting us from hopelessness and despair to a place of deeper connection. Our children need us to secure their future. Divisiveness only breeds more anguish and hatred, which has no place in our families. Let’s commit to raising our voices constructively when we disagree, individually and collectively.
I see our most important challenge, as we face a new administration, to be ensuring we have a sustainable planet for the coming generations. Let us choose approaching this future of uncertainty with determination, unity, and collective strength. It is my deepest hope that we will inspire our children to be thoughtful leaders with integrity, community builders, entrepreneurs, and stewards of the earth. Their future depends on it.
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