How to Talk to Your Kids About Trump

A few months ago my sister-in-law and I started a podcast. (This is genuinely the real reason I haven’t blogged since it began.) I’ll go into that more in a future blog but it is because of that podcast that I’ve had MANY emails, Facebook messages and texts asking me how I talk to my kids and my family about Donald Trump.

We end each episode of the Mama Bear Dares podcast with a dare that (we hope) inspires the listener to live life with more love and compassion-for themselves, for their significant others, for their children and for all of humanity. So people aren’t reaching out to me because they think I have it figured out, they are reaching out to me because Leslie and I have created a platform that encourages people to continue to reach out in kindness and love.

The honest answer to their question about teaching my kids kindness when they are hearing sound bites from a man who could be our next President being the very opposite of kind? I’m genuinely not sure how to answer that.

I admit to saying truly unkind things about Trump. Maybe some are true, most are probably just fear coming out in words. Sometimes my kids are around, sometimes they aren’t. So if that’s where you’re at-where the fear and the anxiety and the sleepless nights have you being unkind-I get that.

Here’s what I’m going to try to do today though:

  1. Instead of just give my kids sound bites from me I’m going to sit them down and tell them why I’m not voting for Trump. I want my kids to see that I arrived at my decision because of facts not fear. I want them to learn what we value as a family by who we elect politically. When we read the Bible and hear about all of the times Jesus came to help the people the governments of the day forgot-I want my kids to understand the relevance of that today. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that Christians vote Republican. I want them to grow up being able to differentiate between someone who says they love Jesus and then treats everyone around them like hot garbage from someone who just does the daily work of loving those around them consistently and (sometimes) quietly. My kids deserve to hear smart, rational, non-fear based facts about how our country is right now and my hopes for the future. They won’t get that from me yelling, “What an idiot” at the TV.
  2. I will show them videos of past Presidents during their acceptance speeches at the conventions. I will try to raise kids who don’t just fall for the flashy lights, pretty words and rehearsed pauses. We will stop the videos and ask “ok this is what they said, what do you think this means?” Just like when we go past magazines at the store and one of them comments on the models I remind them of photoshop, lighting, make up and angles-I will also remind them of the difference between rhetoric and reality. I never want my kids to be disengaged consumers buying whatever anyone is selling. I want them to see past the rhetoric. Who is being included? Who is being left out? If Trump were to make this actually happen who benefits? Who doesn’t? In that phrase he just said is it inclusive or exclusive? Overall did you get a feeling that he loves this country and its people or did you get the feeling that he hates this country and most of its people?
  3. Every time I hear another racist, misogynistic, islamophobic, homophobic (all the ists and bics) instead of reacting out of anger I will label those things appropriately and, when able, ask our kids to imagine someone from that target audience and ask how they think it would feel for them to hear that. Because when Donald Trump is coming at us with anger, I want my kids to instead react with empathy. Just like I encourage my kids to empathize and defend the kid from the bully at school, I want them to see what Trump is doing and recognize it as the same. And I’ll also discuss the danger in other-izing an entire group of people. Once again asking, if someone talks about a group of people who looks, believes or acts differently than they do in a way that’s derogatory do you actually think they would ever go out of their way to make life better for a member of that group? I hope this teaches them that in the future when they hear of kids or adults speaking poorly about an entire race, gender, nationality or religion it’s probably a good indication that my kids’s energies would be better spent on someone trying to heal the divisions rather than widen.
  4. When my kids come home to tell me that their friends are voting for Trump instead of reacting with a “Jesus” (this is my go-t0 response, it’s whatever. I’m working on it but dam*. Bless) I’ll react with a “and how does that make you feel?” If my kids don’t have the words for how that makes them feel I’ll give them words for how it makes me feel when I have friends voting for him. It makes me scared. It makes me angry. It makes me sad. It makes me feel like maybe we don’t have as much in common as I thought we do. It makes me feel like we need to move. It makes me feel like I’m alone. It doesn’t necessarily erase any of their feelings but I hope it helps them process them in a healthy way. In a way that is able to sit back and understand that maybe those friends are just regurgitating what their parents say. That it doesn’t necessarily reflect on the children themselves but on their desire to relate to and be a part of the conversation in their own homes. It’s a good example of how wanting to be included can lead to things that maybe don’t actually reflect how we feel or what we think and I’ll stress again that being an independent thinker is one of the most powerful things you can be. Sometimes it’s lonely but you’ll always be able to fall asleep knowing you’ve stayed true to who you are.
  5. I’m going to remind my kids that they can make a difference. I genuinely believe this election will come down to who shows up at the polls. Obviously every election does to some extent but this one feels like the stakes are higher. I have told them for as long as I can remember that their voices, their bodies and their stories matter. But I’ll show them I believe my own life matters by voting in this election. And I will remind them that as they get older I want them to vote however they see fit not how I see it, not how their grandparents or their friends see it. I don’t want them to think that because they are Christian they need to vote Republican. I don’t want them to think that because they are white they vote this way or black they vote another. I don’t want them to vote with who their husband or wife is voting for. I want them to do their own due diligence and research all of the candidates. I want to equip them with the knowledge of how to do that and this election seems like a pretty great time to start so that when they turn 18 (just did the math…Trysten is eerily close to voting in the next Presidential election. Gulp) they are confident in their ability to choose for themselves and no one else. It took me far too long to learn that lesson.
  6. And I will point out the things that they aren’t old enough to see but that I believe is important. I will show them that most of the people at the RNC this week were white. I will remind them that whiteness doesn’t represent our country and that when any majority is allowed to go unchecked it always spells disaster for minorities. Always. So when I encourage them to be kind I mean to be kind to the people who are being left out of the conversation when Trump is at the podium. The people who run the risk of being exploited even more than they are already. I will remind them that our kindness is ALWAYS better spent on the people for whom our communities, our countries and our world discounts and sees as disposable. And I will wake them up to the privileges they have that others don’t. And use Trump as an example of unchecked and unregulated privilege. Though I’ve talked to Trysten specifically about winning the virtual privilege lottery (white, male, middle class, intelligent, no visible signs of disability, cisgendered, currently straight identifying, etc) I haven’t talked to the others about the other various ways privilege plays out and how we have to stay awake to the realities of others or we run the risk of neglecting them too.

This political season is a really great training ground for teaching my kids that fighting fire with fire burns the entire country to the ground. We are seeing this play out on the national stage but my kids do not need to see it play out in my house. If I genuinely want my kids to react to an angry person or an angry idea with respect and rationality then I have to show them how to do it. I’m absolutely going to mess up because I’m human and I’m still learning to process my emotions in a healthy and beneficial way but I have to start somewhere.

Last night a friend who, like me, has Republicans running down all sides of her family. People she respects and loves messaged me with “I need someone to tell me what to do.” I don’t think I know what to do but I’m going to start here.

Equipping my family with knowledge, agency, love, empathy and compassion feels like the most profound thing I can do. Today it certainly feels like the most revolutionary act that is needed from us.

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Are you feeling this same tension? What are you doing with you kids?

 

 

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11 thoughts on “How to Talk to Your Kids About Trump

  1. Great post! Just today my daughter (11) commented about Ivanka’s endorsement of her father. She said she can’t understand why she was just lying on TV. I asked how she knew she was lying to which she replied how every time she listens to Trump speak he says something that is opposite her claims. I was proud.

  2. Greetings,
    This is a good write up and it is intelligently expressed. There is some issue with it that I have though and it’s because it does a complete U-turn in the sixth paragraph. I don’t understand how you went from don’t try to dictate their thoughts to “Look at all the white people at the convention.” That’s pure rubbish and i don’t see how you suddenly went from, be open and not fearful to “Look how it’s mostly white people at the convention”.”White majorities spell disaster for minorities.” That in itself is complete fear in an almost irrational sense. It was actually quite racist in all sense of the word. That one paragraph completely negated the entire post.

    Call me confused by that.

    • Hey JohnDinD!

      Actually saying “look at all the white people” is an observation not an indictment. I think it’s important to do that at any point. When we go to churches that are full of mostly people of color we also say “did you notice it was full of mostly people of color? What do you think that means for the community and the message?” I meant it in a more observational way. And I also never said “white majorities spell disaster for minorities” I said majorities in general (I don’t mean it in the “white” sense I mean it in the literally majority sense.) And throughout time it’s been proven that when majorities come together without anyone from opposing views/skin color/religions, etc it CAN spell disaster. I believe that’s what we are seeing with the Trump campaign and I have ample evidence (minorities/peaceful protestors being thrown out of rallies) to prove that.

  3. This is brilliant! [and it’s so nice to hear a fellow Christian saying this stuff… I’m feeling pretty alone over here!]. My oldest daughter is only 2, so she doesn’t really understand what’s going on. In the wake of all of these police shootings of black men [as well as the public’s response to it], I decided to create a multicultural/diversity learning space for her in our home. I’m currently looking through resources and ordering age-appropriate books for it while trying to tie in Montessori education (which is an education for peace!), and I’ll be blogging it when I finally have it all together. I’m hoping that through this I can teach my children (no matter who wins this election) that many different kinds of people exist in this world and that our lives are more beautiful for our differences. #imwithher

    • SO alone, right?!? I feel you. I can’t wait to see your blog-that is important stuff you’re doing! On the podcast we are interviewing a woman who wrote a book called “Give Your Child the World”. Jamie Martin took 5 years to research and read books from all over the world for different age sets. It doesn’t start until 4-years-old but I would highly recommend that one for your shelf! 🙂 Good luck!

  4. Hello Tesi,
    I can understand your intentions were to say what you wanted to say, but it came to me as a very quick turnaround that became what it was preaching against. I have to agree and disagre with what is said about Trump rallies. Yes, there has been people thrown out, but I also have seen people who were not peaceful thrown out, because they never intended to be peaceful. I think this whole hysteria over Trump is laughable. For one, he has not even taken position into office in any sort of equatable way to what his opponent has. He’s not the one who had a hand in three strikes and you’re out, which led to the incarceration of thousands of black Americans. Most of which were drug related and completely not deserving of such severe punishment. A consequence that I would hope elected leaders would have known at the time. His opponent was in fact one of those people though who pushed for that. Of course that opponent is changing her tune now, but of course political virtues and values tend to change during election times.

    Trump is not causing the police issues we are seeing with black Americans. That honestly is a very long strung conflict that involves indecencies and triggering factors on both sides. That is absolutely undeniable, easily provable and only a focused strategy that holds both sides accountable will solve that. There are many black Americans, many of whom that know both sides of the issue that would agree with me on this. I know this, because I have spoken with them about it. This is an issue that is spiraling out of control because sides are being taken. There is no one side that wins this in the end, because only the full spectrum of us all can do that.

    Now that being said, Trump is interesting to me, because he’s practically a non-factor if not for the hysteria against him. The panic and attention he gets is more powerful than anything he will ever actually do. He’s not going to win and I’d bet my entire fortune on that. He’s got the entire establishment going against him, including his own party, the media and at least half of America. Hillary will win this election and we will still be having these problems. Sorry to say that if you are a supporter of her, but I’m not fooled by her or the people who back her. Hint: The GOP has stayed silent on this and quietly endorsed her by not endorsing Trump. Yikes.

    I do not know your background but I do know mine. I do know that people of multiple cultures and ethnicities could and shall most certainly get along, IF they choose to focus on the positive and not always the negative. Of course the negative will happen, but the positive must never be over taken by it. It’s not even about accepting differences really, it’s more about not being drawn into the conflicts that are being built. The news has been flushing out stories full of hateful attacks and barbarous behavior. Incidents that are stemming from the fact that certain groups are being molded into enemies. There is no denying that a build-up of fury is going on, for no good reason whatsoever. My intent is to stop the anger by focusing on unity that happens everyday among all of us. Pandering in my opinion has led to squandering of successful relation building. So many are so afraid of each other and they don’t need to be. It drives me absolutely daffy.
    Anyways, I do appreciate your opinion and I promise you that this country is full of goodness you have yet to see. Cheers.

    • I agree with much of what you said, actually. Even though I don’t believe Trump will become President I think it’s still really important to have an open conversation with my children about him. The same way I have with celebrities who have said racist or hateful things. Just as I can tell you are critically looking at Trump and his role in our nation-I want my kids to do the same. Whether they end up where I am or not is not up to me but I want to raise critical thinkers and that’s what this post is about. Because my oldest is 13 and youngest is 9, they aren’t necessarily learning to think critically of anything yet-not in school, not in their relationships, not in church. I feel it is my responsibility to do that.

      In the end I agree with you-this country is ABSOLUTELY full of goodness, it’s something I tell my kids on the daily. I am an optimist to the extreme so even when I’m teaching critical thinking I’m also encouraging them to witness the beauty within the ugly.

      Thanks for your respectful dialogue! Appreciate you reaching out.

  5. My (black) 7 year old went to the same school that Phlando Castile worked at. We’ve had a rough few weeks. These conversations are hard to have, for many reasons but also for the fact that my son does not want to have them . We put up a black lives matter sign in our yard this week and he wants it down. I’m impressed that you are able to talk about it so logically and systematically. If we get 3 minutes of sustained serious conversation regarding race or politics in America it’s amazing.

    • Oh my gosh P.Rose I can’t imagine the position you’re in. I wonder if it’s just the difference between a 7-year-old and then the older kids I’m working with. My 9-year-old lasted about 3 minutes but the others were invested. It might just be about age? But you’re doing good work, mama, just making it part of your conversation. Thoughts with your family and community.

  6. Third party candidate is going to be the choice for 2 out of 3 voters in our house. Trump is awful, but the DNC and their candidate have no room to take the moral high ground in my opinion. I’m tired of the two parties telling me my vote won’t matter if I don’t follow one of them. Time for me to make a personal stand on my principles and not worry about whether I’m helping one candidate or the other (Hilary voters say I’m helping Trump and vice versa).

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