What do we tell kids about the election results?

By now, it’s sunk in for many of us that Donald Trump is going to be the next president of the United States. In a highly contentious election this year—about half of our population is celebrating his win, but the other half is left feeling uncertain and in some cases, scared for their futures in this country. As adults, it’s important not to alarm our children about the election and wait to see how events unfold in the upcoming months.

Here is some advice for those who will struggle telling kids the results and talking about a Trump presidency:

Sarah Levin Allen, Ph.D., CBIS, department of psychology, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine: "Talk. Talk out loud about the emotional process. Talk about how you're feeling and how you're working through the emotions you have. Talk about how others are feeling and how they may be working through those emotions. Help model a method for managing strong emotions and focusing on the next steps. Use the event as a teachable moment in which your children can learn coping and emotion management skills."

Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA, executive director of The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children: "There has never been a more important time than now for parents to remind children of their family’s values. It’s a true test of character when you can hold on to your own values when others are demonstrating values contrary to your beliefs.  Our family will   continue to show respect for all people, including those with values and beliefs different from ours.

Now, it’s our job as members of a democracy to watch what Mr. Trump does as the President and hold him accountable for serving the people.  The election not only marks the end of the campaign, but the beginning of a governing process respected worldwide. 

For our daughters:  Secretary Clinton didn’t lose because she was female – Trump won because he ran the more impactful campaign."

W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D., ABPP, director of integrated health care for American Psychological Association: "What makes our government special is that people vote, someone gets elected, and all of those around help that person get started.  Last night Mr. Trump was elected, Mrs. Clinton congratulated him and President Obama invited him to the White House. Even though everyone said a lot of negative things the past few weeks that is behind us now. We all move forward."

Anita Kulick, president & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting: "What I think we can tell our children is that even when we are defeated, angry, and sad; we need to remain respectful and kind, even to those who do not share our beliefs. That we lead by our example."

Paul LeBuffe, director of the Devereux Center for Resilient Children: "This situation presents a great ‘teachable moment’ for us adults to model appropriate, healthy responses to both disappointment and triumph. Doing so will help our children learn to be more resilient and, we trust, better citizens.” Here are tips to promote your child’s resilience (and your own):

Help them develop their emotional self-control. Talk to them about what it means to be both a good winner and a good loser. Point out the positive steps adults are taking to come together as one nation after the election.

Help them strengthen their positive coping skills or initiative. One of the best ways to cope with disappointment is to be actively engaged in making things better. If your child is disappointed because some positive outcome they valued is now less likely to occur, talk about what steps they can take in their own lives to help that outcome become more likely.

Encourage optimism and positive thinking. Help them see the positives even in disappointment. One useful technique is “Even If…” Help your children think about the positive aspects of negative outcomes or events. For instance, some of us might say, “Even if Hilary Clinton did not win the election, it was good that so many people voted in this election.”

Gary A. Emmett, M.D., F.A.A.P., professor of pediatrics, Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University: "Don't do mean things even if you see an adult do them."

Here are additional resources:

Huffington Post contributor: What do we tell our children?

Los Angeles Times commentary: Donald Trump is our next president. What do we tell the children?

Newsweek columnist: What will we tell our children?


Have a question for the Healthy Kids panel? Ask it here. Read more from the Healthy Kids blog »

Continue Reading