Photo by Silvio Assuncao/Flickr
For many of us, the results of the Presidential election and the president-elect’s recent appointments are a surprise that has brought some concerns regarding the future direction of the United States. Some people are fearful of deportation, others are afraid of anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice. In addition there are concerns about the rights of women and the LGBTQ community.
Many early childhood educators are spending time explaining these developments to the children in their care. Administrators set the tone and are responsible for ensuring that all children feel safe. We are proud to post a letter to families by the director of early childhood education at a program in Los Angeles.
If your preschool or center has written a useful letter or done something else to help families cope with election fallout, please send it to us. We would be pleased to post a selection of letters on our blog.
Now, in the clear light of day, we see an outcome we did not expect. Suddenly, we are uneasy with our countrymen and women—how can we be so far apart? How can basic decency not be valued? How can such cruelty prevail? Despite everything we teach them, does bullying win? Is it OK to make fun of people who look different than we do?
Even as we struggle to find ground on which to stand, we must be mindful of our very young children. You may not realize your children are being affected by all this but they are. First by what they see: Your sadness, anger, worry. It is okay for you to say how you feel, to cry and be sad. If we don’t let children know it’s okay to feel sad and scared, they may think something is wrong with them when they feel that way.
They certainly don’t need to hear all the details of what’s making us sad or scared, but we can help them accept that when bad or scary things happen, it’s OK to have feelings about it. It also models for them how to express feelings. Try, however, to be as in control as possible. Keep their routines as consistent and regular as you can. This is the way that children feel safe.
Second, children are affected by what they hear: from you, the TV and other screens, from their friends. So, it is always good to ask, “What have you heard about this election?” Sometimes things said are understood in ways that frighten or confuse them. You can share that we live in a country where people are allowed to say what they want and sometimes people say mean and hurtful things, but it is also a country that has rules and laws. That we will always fight for fairness and kindness. We will stand with our friends who have different skin color, different religion, whose families look different than ours.
Remember that your words, said in moments of despair or anger, will also be heard. Try to keep the catastrophic pronouncements away from them. Finally, turn off the TV.
As our children know, at Yom Kippur, we were given the chance to do better, be kinder, be forgiven for the things we have said and done. So, we will give the new President a chance to do better, and be kinder, too.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”—Fred Rogers