Saturday, October 31st
As we head into these final days of the 2020 election, there is a lot that we do not know. It is quite likely that there will be more suspense and uncertainty in the days that follow.
But we do know that children of all ages will be talking about the election and asking questions. Recent research is telling us that they will be worrying about it. This means that all of the adults in the Gordon community will be called upon to thoughtfully steward our children through one of the most rancorous and divisive moments in our nation’s history.
Are you ready?
Between the pandemic, racial violence, and economic concerns, explaining the current political landscape to a young person is a daunting task, especially if we want to also impart a sense of optimism about what is ahead.
To prepare for this work, we adults have to put on our own oxygen masks first, before we can help our children with theirs.
Check your news feed a couple of times a day rather than twenty. Take a break from social media. Spend time with people who restore your soul rather than drain it. Take walks, exercise, volunteer to causes you care about. Give yourself permission to care for yourself.
Talking to your children
When you talk to your children about this election, psychologists recommend focusing the conversation in ways that help students articulate their values. Last week, I had the privilege of working with seventh graders, and I asked them to reflect on their beliefs about leadership. What kind of leader would you want to follow? How should a leader treat people? What kind of leader would you want to be?
When students use their values to frame conversations about the election, they are engaging in the kind of critical thinking that a functioning democracy needs to thrive.
A recent post on Care.com went further, summarizing a few more key ways parents and caregivers can provide young people with tools to help them navigate this election productively:
- Emphasize classic lessons from Kindergarten. Show respect for those who don’t look or think like you. Listen patiently. No name-calling.
- Show them how to practice reflective listening, in which a person listens, then repeats back what they have heard before responding.
- Encourage them to pause, think, and ask questions before they react.
- Help them channel their energy to work for change.
Helping students respond
That last point, “help them channel their energy for change,” is crucial. Here at Gordon, we encourage students to use their voices to respond to events that impact them and impact their world. As we head into election day, Gordon has looked back on previous major events, like last fall’s climate change rally, for models of how we can give students of all ages authentic, age-appropriate ways to express their hopes and concerns.
In the days after the election, no matter what the outcome is, Gordon will intentionally create safe spaces for students to process the results and, more importantly, the feelings and emotions that may come up. That’s what we do.
In Middle School, this might mean long advisories on November 4th and humanities lessons that connect the past and the present.
In Lower School, it could look like emotional temperature check-ins in morning circle, and class discussions to help students understand how our democratic processes work.
In Early Childhood, it may simply be that teachers need to be ready to respond to whatever students may bring into the classroom while still following a routine that allows children to feel safe no matter what may be swirling in the grown-up world.
The worst that could happen
In my mind, the worst thing that could happen after November 3rd is not that a particular candidate wins or loses. It’s the possibility that our young people could lose hope. When our children lose hope, they lose confidence in their ability to make a difference.
Once this election resolves, America will have a tremendous amount of work to do. We adults need to take care of ourselves now, so that we are capable of participating fully in the months and years ahead.
We also need to take care of our children. There will be work for them on the road ahead, but they are playing a crucial role today, as well. They are the ones keeping hope alive. That’s an important job. Let’s help them.
Thank you, as always, for your partnership and for the trust you have put in Gordon.
Noni Thomas López
Head of School
More on Gordon's response to the election season at www.gordonschool.org/election