US Election 2016: What should I tell my daughters about Donald Trump?

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he arrives to speak at an election night rally, early Wednesday, Nov. 9, ...
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he arrives to speak at an election night rally, early Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York.  Photo: Evan Vucci

It's easy to feel shocked and saddened in the wake of Donald Trump's shock victory in the US presidential election. More than that – it's easy to feel scared. So what an earth should we tell our kids? 

As my husband and I discussed the results, our daughters, who were getting ready for bed, cottoned on. They could tell from the looks on our faces and the tones of our voices that something 'bad' had happened. And of course, they wanted to know what.

My instinct was to change the subject – how could we begin to explain how a person like Trump, who is openly misogynist, racist and homophobic, had been elected the president of the America?

Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters after Donald Trump was elected president.
Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters after Donald Trump was elected president. Photo: Bloomberg

As political activist, commentator, author and attorney Van Jones told CNN – it is hard to be a parent following such alarming news. "You tell your kids don't be a bully. You tell your kids don't be a bigot.... and then you have this outcome," he said in an emotional interview.

Even in Australia, where we will be less impacted by the Trump presidency, parents are scared. Posts in my Facebook feed this morning tell me that our kids are worried, some are even asking their parents if we are about to have another world war.

Last night as I tried to sleep I kept thinking of my daughters – the urge to go and check on them took me to their room to watch over them as they slept in blissful ignorance. They are not in physical danger – but I am worried about them growing up in a world that has endorsed the level of bigotry that Trump stands for.

In previous generations, kids were less aware of world events, but today our children are more exposed than ever. And as British Children's charity NSPCC warns, we can't necessarily shield them from the truth.

"Despite the urge to protect our children from what's happening, this can mean their worries build up," says John Cameron, NSPCC spokesperson told HuffPost Parents.

Recent data from the charity shows a 35 per cent rise in children with anxiety – some of which was attributed to worrying world events such as the US election and conflict in the Middle East.

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So what do we do? Speaking to HuffPost Parents, child psychologist Amanda Gummer says that we should try and keep kids informed about events on the global stage, but in an "age appropriate way."

"It's important to raise children to be active citizens and including them in discussions around the political process is a good way to start.

"Honesty is always the best policy, but it's important to acknowledge what is your own opinion and that there are other people who have different opinions," she explains.

Gummer suggests using things that are more relevant to children to explain politics. "Use examples such as the class rep system ... dealing with an issue in their own area.

"Explain that in most countries people are elected and that the best way to change things is to get involved.

She continues: "Try holding a family meeting to discuss issues (e.g. Christmas plans, holidays, pocket money) and let each person have their say and then vote on it. This will help children understand the process and worry less," she says.

It's also important that we give our children a chance to voice their fears and not simply dismiss them as silly. "It's always a good idea to let children lead. If they ask questions they deserve answers," says Gummer.

For me, I am choosing to see the Trump era as an opportunity to teach my daughters about resilience and standing up for what they believe in. Politics both here in Australia and overseas may be depressingly xenophobic – but that doesn't mean we all have to be.

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