Early on Wednesday morning I was DEFINITELY going to write a post on the US 2016 Presidential election.
Then I lost my appetite for blogging. I lost my appetite for social media. I lost my appetite for news in general.
My dismay, disappointment and, dare I say, disgust turning into denial (yes I know Mindfulness is about trying to be non-judgemental and I am trying hard not to play the ‘blame game’ that I talked about in my previous post). But the people of America had just just elected a misogynist and bigot to the White House and I, like many was finding that very hard to digest.
Later when I had calmed down I would start to try and empathise with the fact that some people felt they had no choice but to vote for Donald Trump and also that some people’s hatred of the Clintons was so strong that anyone was better than that ‘dynasty’ back in government. Anyway, I was not ready for rationalising these thoughts yet – all I could do was label my emotions as sadness, disillusionment and anger.
And then I had the privilege of working with some pre-teens about ‘unworrying’ and they gave me the impetus to blog again. It was during this session that I realised that if I thought the impact of the election was great on me, then this was nothing compared to the impact it had had on some of the most impressionable members of our society as I was reminded of what happened as my 6 year old son observed my reaction to the news on Wednesday morning. I was immediately greeted by a series of pertinent questions. One was:
Putting my own concerns to one side and trying my best to empathise with my child I realised I needed to be extremely mindful of how I answered this question. Yes, I was feeling anxious – wondering what this meant for the world, wondering how this could happen, wondering what this indicated about mankind. And yet it did not seem fair to communicate all of this to my eldest. I owed him honesty. But I also owed him protection. Protection from the worries of the adult world he did not inhabit yet.
Anyway, I digress, back to the lesson on ‘unworrying’. Part of the discussion centred around the question of ‘what do people your age worry about?’. Yes, there was talk of friendships and school tests (see my post about how we can help our children with exam anxiety here) but I was extremely surprised by the responses about the current situation in the USA. This being an extremely impressionable age, the children had clearly picked up on a lot of conversations at home but not always fully understood the situation. This therefore was clearly a dangerous combination with regard to young people’s well-being. They understood that the adults around them had been shocked and disheartened by Trump becoming President Elect but had ‘filled in the gaps’ about why the grown-ups were worried. And so the question that I got from them was:
I had not been prepared for this. It gave me a powerful insight into the impact we can have on our children’s emotional state without realising. There were genuine concerns from many in the cohort that war was likely after the recent events in America. Part of the ‘unworrying’ session was about introducing the mantra ‘thoughts are not facts’ to the children (see my post here about this important statement) and this hopefully helped immensely, but still it was a ‘wake up call’ for me about just how much of the ‘adult world’ our youngsters take in.
So, what can we all take away from this? If we come into contact with children who are of an age where they can understand some aspects of the news (the headlines and the drama) but maybe don’t fully comprehend the whole story than surely it is wise to be mindful of what news they are exposed to and what reassurances we can give them about what this means for them.
Yes, the reality of President Trump is devastating to many but we must not let this be mirrored by those who are too young to fully understand.
At least we may take some solace from the fact that “the history books won’t count millennials among the coalition that put president-elect Donald Trump into office, as most younger voters came out for Clinton” (from an online Bloomberg article you can read in full here) and maybe this can help us celebrate the tolerance and liberalism of the youth of America when talking to our own children about the events from this week.
How have people in your household reacted to the news of President Elect Trump?
Have the younger members of the family offered any opinions or asked any searching questions?