Many of us told our daughters they’d wake up this week to learn that the United States had elected a woman president. Some of us told them this even if we had qualms about the particular woman candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Then, of course, it didn’t happen.
Donald Trump is the president-elect. He deserves the chance to lead, even from those who didn’t vote for him. The peaceful transfer of power, even if it’s painful (it’s always painful to someone), is one of the most important American traditions.
Yet, we still have to have that talk with our daughters–especially, I think, daughters between early school age and tween years. What should we say? What happened? Fortunately, there are some frameworks for this, including both science and experience-informed guidance.
Here are 7 important messages to make sure you deliver.
1. You are loved and protected.
This always has to come first, and I think you know it already. Your daughter must understand that no matter what happens in politics or government or the election–absolutely nothing changes your love for her, and your determination to protect her from any harm that you possibly can. So lead with this: No matter what happens, you are still loved and protected.
2. You can your feelings.
Whether it’s sorrow or pride, teach your daughter not to be ashamed of her feelings, but to learn to control how she reacts to external events. In other words, if she’s upset that Clinton lost (either because she wanted to see the glass ceiling shattered or because she wanted Hillary specifically), take time to grieve–but then move forward.
3. We need to give people the benefit of the doubt.
There was some truly vile and hateful rhetoric in this campaign, but it’s still worthwhile to give people the benefit of the doubt. Frankly, the first person to whom we owe that courtesy the most to is Trump himself. He won fairly, and who sounded some magnanimous notes in his victory speech early Wednesday morning. Take him at his word for the moment, at least.
4. You should strive to be empathetic.
As painful as this is for some people, the truth is that many of us missed the signs. They were clear in retrospect–the polls were close, and a big chunk of the American population that voted for trump feels abandoned, forgotten, and even mocked. Their pain is real. It would be extraordinarily helpful if young people especially strove to listen and understand.
5. Never stop working for what you know is right.
There can be no room for bigotry, racism, sexism–all the isms that those who voted against Trump fear are rearing their ugly heads. While this election has clearly given aid and comfort to some of the darker forces in our country, that doesn’t mean that a majority of Americans actually believe in racist and misogynist ideals. That said, it’s a teachable moment: when your daughter sees bullying and bigotry, teach her to call it out and fight against it.
6. You need to be self-sufficient.
This election result reminds us to avoid being dependent on anyone else for our well-being. If we’re going to see a backlash against independent women, which is possible, teach your daughter to aspire to be financially self-supporting. And as we hear about this wide swath of Americans who feel economically out of control, teach your daughters to find their talents and demand fair value for them. Oh, and teach them the value of a side hustle, so they’re never 100 percent depending on one tenuous source of income.
7. Remember, we’ve been through worse.
The election was a gut punch for many in part because it was so unexpected–hours after the polls closed, media were still calling a Clinton victory, and young girls were hopeful that they were going to see the first woman president. So afterward, there has been a lot of grief. However, this nation has survived a war of independence, slavery, a massive depression, and many other threats to its existence. One way or another, reassure her, we’ll get through the next four years.