On Tuesday night, as the results began to point toward a Trump presidency, my son messaged me and asked if he could come up and hug our dog. He arrived around 1am as his sisters sat in the living room, refreshing the electoral map as more states turned dark red. We all sat on the couches, wondering how this could be happening.
On Wednesday, I allowed my girls to skip school. We had already discussed a potential day off if Hillary Clinton had won, but following the results, there was no question that they needed to stay home. It wasn’t until the late afternoon when I noted that it had been an hour since anyone had been crying.
I have two transgender children, a son and a daughter. They have significant fears about the impact that a Trump presidency might have on their lives. What will happen to their ability to use the bathroom? What will happen to their ability to obtain hormones and surgeries? What will happen to their ability to marry?
My other daughter is wondering if her body is really her own. Do boys and men now have the right to put their hands on her after the president-elect said that he did that to women, and those boasts were brushed off as “locker room talk”? And if she is assaulted, will her stories be believed or would she be seen as another woman in the crowd who must be trying to ruin a man’s life?
These are just my kids and these are just some of their fears. Some are more irrational and I can address those, but some are legitimate concerns and those are harder to address. We have talked about how living an authentic life always carries with it some risk, but that the risk is worth it to be who we are. We are trying to embrace the idea that the joy of being our honest selves must outweigh our fears. Right now, that is harder to see.
There are other parents who are caring for their adopted children with black or brown skin. Parents who are immigrants. Parents who are gay. Parents who are Muslim. Parents who are atheists. Parents who have children with disabilities. Each of them are scanning the Internet, searching for ways to assuage the anxiety that the election results have stirred in the people they love the most.
But if you’re like me, you may have been ignoring some of your own fears and anxieties as you tend to those of your children. You’ve read about how to care for your kids following a Trump election, but may be finding it difficult to care for yourself while you do that.
As a reminder to all of us, the best way we can help our children with their emotional struggles is through dealing with our own mental health. Here are just a couple of ideas for caring for yourself as you care for your hurting child.
- It’s okay for them to see you cry. I haven’t watched Hillary Clinton’s concession speech because I’m pretty sure there will be a lot of ugly tears that may raise some anxiety for my kids. But we have all cried together. I have told them that I’m sadder than I thought I would be that there won’t be a female president sworn in on January 20th. We have cried as we have held one another, and it’s good for them to know that I join them in their grief and it’s good for me to let them see my humanity.
- It’s okay to take a break from being a parent. My kids are a bit older, so my ability to find alone time is a bit easier. But regardless of how old your kids are, find time to process your grief without them. Talk to a therapist. Go to the gym. Spend time in prayer or silent reflection. Scream into a pillow. Yes, we probably need to shield our children from some of our more base reactions to the results, but we still need to access them in some way.
- It’s okay to unfriend some people on social media. We will never agree with everyone. We will absolutely come in contact with people who voted differently than we did. And when we are parenting children who could very well be affected directly by some of the policies the president-elect has said that he will enforce, those votes can feel like a personal attack. In our social media circles, we interact with people of all kinds. People who we friended to help tend our gardens back in the FarmVille days. People we knew in high school but weren’t super close to. Family members. Close friends. I believe there is beauty in having diverse friendships, but I also know that I only have a certain amount of emotional bandwidth available, and it does not extend to everyone whose friend request I clicked “accept” on. There are relationships that will need to be repaired, but if I feel bombarded by negativity from “friends” where there is no relationship, it makes it harder to focus on the friendships that matter. Evaluate the strength of the relationship and if it needs to go, let it go.
- It’s okay to have negative feelings that don’t have to do with your kids. Most of my frustrations with the election of the next president are related to how his presidency will impact my children. But there are feelings of anger and fear and sadness that are unrelated to those. I’m just a regular old white lady, so I can feel like my feelings are unimportant compared to those of someone with less privilege, but they are still valid. I need to acknowledge them and work through them so that I can see the pain and fear of my children more clearly.
- It’s okay to ask others for help. Rely on your communities for encouragement. I’m a member of several groups for parents of LGBTQ+ kids and we have been leaning heavily on one another the past few days. Find friends who can commiserate with you. Friends who will listen to your complaints without trying to fix you. Grief is handled best in community, so find a community where you can share your grief honestly.
As we parent as minorities or as parents of minority children or both, we must remember that we are more than just parents. Take time to care for yourself. Our children need it.
Photo by hotblack