It was only a week ago that Americans anticipated the arrival of the 2016 Presidential Election. Polls indicated a sweeping win by one candidate, yet the results surprised statisticians, the media, and many others. Not only were the election results surprising, but the responses of some living in America have been surprising. Biting social media posts, public protests (both peaceful and not-so-peaceful), and (most saddening to me) even photos of children crying, accompanied by parents asking a question much like this: What will I tell my kids?
I’d like to help. In order to do this, though, we must examine not just how we respond to election results but we must examine the lens through which we view the world and how we teach our children about what goes on in the world. Let’s start with our worldview:
President, Not Savior: As Christian parents, we should view the world differently than non-Christians. We should see the world through the lens of Christianity. This means that we have one Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can save us. All others will let us down. No president (or any politician, celebrity, or pastor) should be elevated to the level of Savior. As Christians, we are not promised that our favorite politicians will win elections, yet we know who wins in the end. It is important to assure our children that no matter who wins a presidential election, the One who holds authority is still in control. We should not depend on a president to make everything better. We have a healthy respect for those in authority without placing our lives in their hands.
Christian First: While we may associate ourselves as Republicans or Democrats, our first (and most important) association should be as Christian. This label means that our choices (and the views that we embrace) should be based on what Jesus taught. While many phrases may sound appealing (Love Wins, Pro Choice, etc.), our views should be shaped by New Testament principles. We should expect our views to sometimes be called old-fashioned , but our allegiance to Christ should shine through the principles that we uphold and the things that we support or reject. As Christian parents, we should make decisions on political topics (and anything else) based on what the New Testament teaches. We should not align ourselves with a certain view because it’s the popular view, because of a candidate’s gender or ethnicity, or because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Political Hot Topics: Two hot topics in recent years are abortion and same-sex marriage. We’ve all heard the reasoning of why others support abortion (health of the mother, rape of a woman, woman’s body/woman’s choice), yet the Christian worldview opposes abortion. Killing a child is not appropriate under any circumstance. We’ve all heard the reasoning about why same-sex marriage should be legal (monogamous relationship, born with sexual orientation, equal rights), yet the New Testament (and Jesus, himself) teaches that sex is only appropriate within a marriage between a man and a woman (which excludes any sex outside of marriage).
So, although these ethical issues do not match what the world teaches, our views are to match the New Testament, and we should teach these to our children. By explaining why we believe certain things (based on the New Testament), we can guide our children to make choices based on the New Testament. (Note: It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway. Christians should treat all people with love, dignity, and respect. Name-calling and unkind behavior is never appropriate for a Christian.)
Age-Appropriate Conversation: As parents, we must remember to introduce topics, and to have discussions with our children, based on what it age-appropriate. It’s okay to change the channel and to avoid certain topics in your children’s presence. Remember that children are not mini adults. There are appropriate times to introduce difficult topics. We can explain the basics to our children, elaborate when needed, and give condensed answers to questions. We should consider the child’s age and developmental level before having open political discussions in front of (or with) them.
Teachable Moments: When your children hear about things on the news, from friends at school, or in your conversations, use these teachable moments to explain concepts, political views, and current events in an age-appropriate way. Sometimes this means saying, “___ said/did something very inappropriate. It was unkind/wrong, and we don’t do that.” When protests are violent, or include signs with inappropriate writing, use these moments to teach about how we should respond when we’re disappointed, not with violence or name-calling.
Consider Your Words: Throughout the election, politicians, members of the media, and many others called the candidates names and said things that they may now regret. The following phrase rings true: You can’t un-ring a bell. Our words and actions have consequences, and now is the time to teach this concept. Teach your children to consider their words before they speak. Model this behavior for your children. Before your blurt something out during the drive home, stop and think. Before you talk about that annoying co-worker, stop and think. When you sense your children heating up during an argument, remind them to stop and think before they speak. By thinking before speaking, much pain prevented.
Grieve Appropriately: Grief is part of the life cycle. Humans, animals, and plants live and die, and some death causes a great deal of grief. Sometimes this death does not involve a living being but, instead, involves the death of a dream. As parents, we should teach our children to grieve appropriately. When a dream dies, or we lose, we should not name-call, become violent, break the law, or blame others. Instead, we should feel through the pain, express ourselves in appropriate ways, and work through the grief. After the election, many have chosen to grieve inappropriately, and this is a good time to talk with your children about how to work through disappointment and loss so that they can grieve appropriately.
Consider Others: When one team wins, the other loses. It’s natural for people (in particular, children) to consider their own feelings, yet we must help our children to be mindful of the feelings of others. Last week, when one candidate lost, many were devastated. However, another group was elated. While some empathy was expressed, others seemed concerned only with their disappointment. We can help our children to develop empathy simply by acknowledging the feelings of the other group. It’s the good game concept. In children’s sports, we teach children to high five the members of the other team and to say good game. This is not dependent on the outcome of the game. It’s just the kind thing to do.
Maybe you blew it this time. You lost your cool, overreacted, or bad-mouthed one candidate or the other. The good news is that today is a new day. It’s a day to grieve the loss and embrace the truth that we all get second chances to do better next time. Maybe you had a parenting win during the election. If so, pat yourself on the back and keep up the good work.