Friday, January 20, 2017

Helping Children in a New Era

Exactly 55 years ago today, I sat in front of a black and white television set in my parents' basement and listened to John F. Kennedy ask us to think about what we could do for our country. I can't remember why I was not in school that day; I must have been home sick, since my parents would never let me stay home for any other reason. And my memory of that day has been conflated with the much clearer memories of November 22, 1963, when I was several years older and all of us were transfixed by the horror of JFK's assassination.

There is a very different kind of individual being sworn in as president today. This is not a political discussion. The facts of the election speak for themselves and the results of the popular and electoral votes are well known. Whatever your political views, it is good to see that our nation's strong history of peaceful transition of power has held sway, and that the checks and balances of our democracy will likely help balance out the impact of a new approach to governing.

The  most important thing that parents can do in this time of change is to be aware of their own state of mind, especially any anxiety they may be feeling, and to help their children cope with the different tone and policies of our new national leadership.

One excellent tool to help parents address a wide array of issues with their children - from respecting the views of others to social change and civic engagement -- is a book list created by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Reach Out and Read. The list is broken down by age groups and was created specifically to deal with issues families might face after the contentious election.

There are also a number of practical articles and blogs that look at how parents can help their children deal with a different political climate and with the anxiety that might trigger. One blog, from The Huffington Post, includes a suggestion from psychologist Dr. Nancy Mramor common to many commentators, who often characterize it as "Put on your own oxygen mask first."

Dr. Mramor notes, "Making peace with uncertainty and finding ways to temper your own stress levels may be the most important key to being a good parent ... “If parents get the care that they need for themselves,” she added, “then they’re going to be able to be better parents for their children.”

Teachers may find resources from Teaching Tolerance helpful in their classrooms and these may be useful for parents as well. And parents may find that some of the tips in a CNBC post-election blog, based on research supported findings, can help them to be less anxious, and thus more able to help them help their children.

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