Post-Election Self-care...For Your Kids’ Sake!
After an intense build-up to the most contentious political race in my lifetime, election results will be dropped at some point next week. Just writing that tightens and swirls up my gut, and pumps pressure into my head. And I know I’m far from alone.
I’ve gone through several election cycles during my school counseling career. Each year on the day after, I’ve had an office full of kids with high emotions over their (in other words, your) candidate having lost. Their overwhelm has clearly been spill-over from how upset the adults in their lives were. So, for the sake of your kids’ already fragile mental and emotional well-being right now, I’m urging you to do some pre-prepping for your post-election self-care. Here are a few tips:
Reassure your kids you’re in this together. Fear has been the cornerstone of this election like no other, with the narrative fed that our lives as we know are in danger if “the other guy” gets elected. Our kids need reassurance that our bonded family unit is more important than anything and resilient to anything. Let them know that no matter how much uncertainty or scary things swirl around you all, you have each other and it’s not your first “tough stuff survival” rodeo. Stress that regardless of outcome, you’ll stay committed as a family to bettering the world, and being kind and compassionate to others.
Plan it out beforehand...both possibilities. Having the Covid pandemic as a backdrop to this particular election has our strung-out emotional systems on extraordinarily high alert. Whether our guy wins or loses, we’re likely to feel exhausted on multiple levels. Plan ahead how you can lighten your load all week of more stressful responsibilities or things that require much “bandwidth.” Plan out some trusted self-care, particularly if things don’t go as you’re hoping, so you can have what and who you need ready to go. And engage your kids in doing the same. This includes self-soothers, distractions, outlets, and guidelines around consuming media and news. Also think out what you may want to do if all goes as you wish.
Save your hostility, mockery or gloating for peers. While it may be your personal coping or venting go-to, save those memes and in-your-face smack-talking for your grown people. Our kids soak it up and repeat it, without having the mature context-barometer for when and where. Which can lead to conflicts and hurt feelings in their social worlds. Says the school counselor who has had to address many of them.
Set boundaries with friends & family. Spare yourself from the stress of political arguments with your loved ones, and have an unapologetic “I love you, but not today” message ready.
Guide your kids in all of the above. Help your kids develop their own self-care, and prepare for how they’ll treat and respond respectfully to classmates and even teachers in both possible scenarios. How can they have all their legitimate feels without expressing them in a way that leaves others feeling crappy? Where can they give themselves a break from their workload and school-day if needed? What are their available in & out of school supports? What boundaries can they set and how with peers and social media?
Just “waiting to see what happens” when the final decision is announced - while we’re flooded with thoughts and feelings - is setting us up for potentially debilitating and contagious emotions. Planning for our self-care not only helps prevent us from getting our toxic stuff on our kids, but models something crucial we want them to learn. This situation, along with endless others in the crap-storm of 2020, gives us a rich opportunity to teach our kids the resilience skills they’ll need for the many crap-storms they have yet to face.
Kriya Lendzion is a school counselor, adolescent therapist, parent coach, educational consultant and parent in Asheville, NC. She can be found on FB, IG & Twitter @KriyaCounselor and on her YouTube channel, Raising Teens in Reality.