How This Election Affects Your Kids

Help your children understand the election with these tips from a pediatrician.

It’s been weeks since the election, but it remains a tense topic in many households. With the holidays nearing, conversation is likely to swing toward politics once again—and when it does, it’s important to know how to appropriately involve children.

Normand Tanguay, chair of pediatrics at Winchester Hospital, says it’s crucial to help children grow up in a stress-free environment, as research has shown that high levels of stress and fear may have adverse effects on a child’s development.

“There’s been a lot of very disturbing rhetoric expressed on TV and the media, much of it expressed very loudly, angrily,” he says. “A lot of hate speech, and this has caused a lot of children to feel quite frightened.” He says he’s heard of children having trouble sleeping or encountering tensions at school.

Tanguay isn’t alone. After the election, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) CEO Karen Remley even wrote a letter on behalf of the AAP, addressing the importance of making children feel safe and protected in their day-to-day lives.

Parents can ease fears by following the tips in the AAP’s letter—encouraging conversation, listening to your child, and volunteering to better your community—and Tanguay suggests monitoring your child’s social media and news habits to understand what he or she is hearing and seeing. Discrimination, damaging rhetoric, and protests can be scary or confusing to children, Tanguay says, so it’s important to know what your little one has read or overheard.

“I think it’s frightening to all children, and that’s regardless of their race or gender or anything,” Tanguay says. “It’s damaging because it’s so frightening, even regardless of their parents’ own political leanings and support.”

As for how much you should talk about the election, Tanguay says it depends on the child. Ask what he or she has heard, but don’t force the issue.

“For a child, they can express whatever they want and you listen, and then you talk about it,” Tanguay suggests.

It’s also important to talk to your kids if you are heavily affected by the election, as children are good at picking up on emotions. Be sure to also address what to do if your child experiences or witnesses discrimination, and that they can talk about it with you.

“For pediatrics, one of our core values is to protect all children, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation. And it’s also a core value of, I think, most Americans and of our country at large,” Tanguay says. “We can focus on that without being partisan. That’s a value that we’ve all agreed that we share, and I think it’s important we talk about that.”