On Wednesday morning, my Facebook newsfeed was a post-election scroll of shock, sadness, anger, disappointment — and some rejoicing.
"What am I going to tell my kids?" was a common refrain.
It might be tempting for those who supported Hillary Clinton to let bitterness, sadness, or fear seep into their parenting. In fact, two child mental health experts I spoke with Wednesday morning told me that they'd already fielded many queries from nervous parents and kids about how to cope.
School districts are trying to respond, too.
"We will reassure our students that the core of the American spirit is truly grounded in love, generosity, acceptance, support, and optimism," wrote Winchester superintendent Judith A. Evans in a note to parents.
So, if you're mired in despair because your candidate didn't win, remember: This is an opportunity. No, life isn't always fair. Not everyone comes out a winner. With that in mind, it's important to frame this as a long-term lesson in perspective and optimism for your kids.
Take the long view. It's easy for adults to get bogged down in the 24-7 news cycle, and it contaminates kids, too, says Lexington child psychologist Dr. Anthony Rao.
"Look at the big picture: Explain to your kids that this is a big country with a lot of resources, and more people work together than work apart. There are always movements and counter-movements," he says. "Say, 'Let's look at history.' Make it a learning experience. There have always been tough moments with confusion and worry. If you think about it from that perspective, anxiety goes down."
Model resilience. "Don't mope. If you mope, [kids] think they're really in trouble," says Rao. Instead, set a strong example for your kids by continuing with your daily responsibilities, even if you can barely focus. "We're no good to our kids if we can't go about our business," he says. "Those emotions are highly contagious. Get your game face on."
Answer questions directly and logically. Suzanne Baumann is a school counselor at Cambridge Friends School and has a private practice working with teens and families. She's encountered kids who fret about the campaign's hot-button issues, from same-sex marriage to immigration to a wall along the Mexican border, and worry about how fast change could happen.
This is a prime chance for them to understand the election and lawmaking process. Baumann likes Scholastic's website: election.scholastic.com.
"This isn't stuff they need to worry about now. A wall isn't going to be built immediately. Explain that it would involve laws and engineering," she says. "This is a chance to get them interested in the political process."
Show emotion. "It's OK to share feelings," says Baumann. For instance, if your daughter is upset that a woman didn't win the election and you're upset, too, it's perfectly fine to tell her that you cried. But put a hopeful spin on it: "Say how exciting it is that we got this close and that you believe it can happen someday because so much of the country wanted it. Maybe it could even be [your child]," she says. Point to other female leaders, whether they're athletes or politicians, to illustrate your point.
Step outside yourself. "We tend to focus on the immediate thing in front of us, and it's a mild shock to the system," says Rao. Back away from the Internet, polls, and Facebook and instead focus on what truly matters in your daily life in the long run: your family.
"I'm telling parents to look at their kids' eyes, smile, and reassure them," Rao says. "When you're shocked or surprised or your beliefs are being challenged, you go into a mini flight-or-fight response. It makes your mind focus on details. Get off the screens and get back to your life."
Kara Baskin can be reached at email@example.com