How to Talk to Your Kids About the Election Results

People across the nation are still reeling from last week's election results. This affects children too. Children have been listening for months to parents, the media, and other sources engage in passionate comments and arguments regarding Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Naturally, children's reactions to the election mirror those they hold in the highest esteem. Problems occur when children encounter others who do not share their reflected jubilation, defeat, shock, or anger. Children do not have the maturity yet to understand that not everyone thinks and reacts the way they do. How do you help children work through this post-election confusion when you're still adjusting to the results yourself (whether through a sense of victory or defeat)?

Lesson 1: Recognize Differences

Remind your child that God created people to be unique. Different people think different ways and do things differently. This is part of God's design. Ask your child, "What is one thing you love to do?" Follow that up with "What is one thing do don't like to do?" Use your child's answers in the following analogy. To make the analogy more clear, I'll put sample answers in italics and brackets. Imagine everyone liked to <play soccer> and no one liked to <clean their room>. We would have awesome soccer games! Everyone would come to watch and take turns playing. Unfortunately, we wouldn't be able to move from room to room in our houses. They would get very dirty and messy because no one would pick up their things and clean the rooms. Would that be a good way to live? Why or why not? God made the church that way too. God gives each person things they are good at and love to do. When everyone works together using their gifts and talents, we can do so much more. When someone has gifts or skills that are different than yours, it does not mean that either one of you are not good enough. It just means that you are different and have different jobs to do. Look at 1 Corinthians 12 together. Either read the whole chapter or verses 15-20 (below).
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 1 Corinthians 12:15-20 (NIV)

Lesson 2: Forgiveness

Both sides of the last presidential campaign said some very hurtful things over the last few months. Children pick up so much more than we give them credit to understand. Even if they did not understand the words, they definitely picked up on your reactions and those of others around them. One of the hardest lessons for children (and adults) to swallow is how to forgive. In all honesty, we cannot do it on our own. It also will take time. YOU'RE NOT BETTER Forgiveness starts with the recognition that we are not better than anyone else. We've said hurtful things and hurt others with our actions too. Think of a specific time you did this and tell it in an age-appropriate manner to your children. You may think they'll be shocked that you are not perfect, but truthfully, your children already know that (Romans 3:23). It will be healthy to see how you can admit your mistakes. Once you've shared, ask your children to share a time they hurt someone else with their words or actions. DEALING WITH THE HURT Once you've established that we've all hurt someone else, it is time to acknowledge the pain felt inside. It is not healthy to minimize our emotional reactions. However, we cannot just sit on them or stuff them away. Our emotions will surface eventually. It's always better to deal with them purposefully. If you wait too long, they will erupt at an unknown time and place, causing much greater damage. Hurt can explode into anger while joy can explode into pride or arrogance. Talking and working through our emotions is a life skill that is part of what the Bible calls "self-control." It is a life-long lesson. Take some time for your child to share what he or she is feeling. Your child may prefer to share with you while you work on a project together rather than sitting knee to knee. Be aware of this and adapt your time to talk accordingly. ASK FOR FORGIVENESS Having talked through and understood the emotions we feel, pray (if you haven't already). God knows us inside out. Nothing is a surprise to Him. God wants us to have a relationship with Him. That includes talking and sharing. Encourage your child to tell God what he or she is feeling. It may be time to ask God to forgive you (or your child) for your own prideful or hurtful reactions.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
FORGIVE OTHERS This may be the hardest step. Jesus' disciples sure had trouble with it. Look at some of the ways Jesus tried to teach His disciples to forgive. The most important reason we should forgive others is because God forgives us. We didn't deserve it either, but God still forgave us.

The Servant Who Had No Mercy

21 Peter came to Jesus. He asked, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but 77 times. 23 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to collect all the money his servants owed him. 24 As the king began to do it, a man who owed him 10,000 bags of gold was brought to him. 25 The man was not able to pay. So his master gave an order. The man, his wife, his children, and all he owned had to be sold to pay back what he owed. 26 “Then the servant fell on his knees in front of him. ‘Give me time,’ he begged. ‘I’ll pay everything back.’ 27 His master felt sorry for him. He forgave him what he owed and let him go. 28 “But then that servant went out and found one of the other servants who owed him 100 silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. 29 “The other servant fell on his knees. ‘Give me time,’ he begged him. ‘I’ll pay it back.’ 30 “But the first servant refused. Instead, he went and had the man thrown into prison. The man would be held there until he could pay back what he owed. 31 The other servants saw what had happened and were very angry. They went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the first servant in. ‘You evil servant,’ he said. ‘I forgave all that you owed me because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on the other servant just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers. He would be punished until he paid back everything he owed. 35 “This is how my Father in heaven will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35 (NIRV)
HOW TO FORGIVE How can we forgive when someone hurts us so much? The disciples had the answer.

Jesus spoke to his disciples. “Things that make people sin are sure to come,” he said. “But how terrible it will be for anyone who causes those things to come! 2 Suppose people lead one of these little ones to sin. It would be better for those people to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck. 3 So watch what you do.

“If your brother or sister sins against you, tell them they are wrong. Then if they turn away from their sins, forgive them. 4 Suppose they sin against you seven times in one day. And suppose they come back to you each time and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ You must forgive them.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Give us more faith!” 6 He replied, “Suppose you have faith as small as a mustard seed. Then you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up. Be planted in the sea.’ And it will obey you. Luke 17:1-6 (NIRV)
God working through us is the only way we can forgive those deepest hurts. It takes time and faith. Here are some steps to take to start:
  1. Pray for the person who hurt you.
  2. Ask God to forgive.
  3. Whenever you think again of the way that person hurt you, start again at #1.
In time, you will find that God will help you to forgive. I pray this post has been helpful. Do you have more suggestions on how to talk to kids about the election? Please share your ideas below.
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