Maybe your chest is as chock-full of emotion as mine over the results of November 8, 2016. As my friend Kristen Welch wrote in her excellent post, America is Stunned. God is Not: 5 Things We Can Teach Our Kids in the Wake of Change: I don’t even know what to say, but just between us: I wasn’t with her and I wasn’t for him.
From the moment we got off the plane, my kids have marveled slack-jawed (with the rest of us) over the news shows and internet headlines of the rabbit hole that is the 2016 elections. Perhaps like I’ll never forget the Challenger exploding at liftoff or where I was on 9/11, they will never forget these last few months.
Some of my kids have dealt with no negligible amount of fear. They’re rife with questions, and looking to a lot of places for hints on how to make sense of this brouhaha. And, as my mom used to say, I can assume they’re even smarter than I think they are. They’ve picked up on a lot. (Though I had to grin yesterday, when during a wrestling session I heard, “Can’t Dad just run for president?”)
What can we say today?
- Listen. We’re not only doing recon about what our kids have seen and the conclusions they’ve drawn. As Barbara Rainey recommends in “How to Speak to Your Kids about Today’s Election Results,” we can intentionally ask questions about their emotions, and what they’re hearing from people around them–friends; school. These are unsettling times for kids, too. Ask God for insight, and “eyes to see and ears to hear” what’s really rattling around in their minds and hearts—along with the truths to combat the lies we’re all tempted by. Job teaches us all that nothing comes to us without coming through God’s throne room first. There is still a king on the throne. (…And it’s not Donald Trump.)
- Watch your cues. On sticky topics like these, fraught with a lot of uncertainty, younger kids are parroting what they hear; they’re Xeroxing our political views. It’s critical that kids witness our genuine faith in the King of Kings far more than in any political opponent, or even a constitution (Uganda has confirmed this for me; you might check out this post, Higher Than I: The New President’s Got Nothing on This). To the furthest extent of age appropriateness, explain the reasons influencing the choice you made–and reservations you had, too.
We’re modeling decision-making for our kids, and how to engage with the culture God’s positioned us within–like Daniel. If they don’t hear it from us, where will they hear it from? Will they just…wing it?
My kids will be voting themselves in six to eight years! But take it a step further, and with as unbiased language as possible, help them to see through others’ eyes, too. See if they understand; if they agree with your thoughts; if they have questions about what’s going on. Though I’m not suggesting you fake it, press your fears through the sieve of faith. Communicate compassion and the deep peace emanating from the One who will eventually bear the government on His shoulders. (To my knowledge, lasting peace is not scheduled to come through any presidential candidate of 2016.)
- God’s still Lord of All. Daniel 2:21 keeps ricocheting around my brain: He removes kings and sets up kings. At the recommendation of Barbara’s post, we read Daniel 1 together today. We see God allowing Nebuchadnezzar’s seize of Jerusalem—and Daniel’s steadfast decision to obey despite being hauled away from his family to be enculturated by the other side. As Kristen reiterated, No matter what we believe, God is love and perfect love casts out fear. When your kids articulate fears…and your brain articulates your own…pray about them. Look through the Word to find what God says. Talk about how you can “comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 2:4).
- He’s still the one who changes hearts. I talked with my kids about the waterslides we yelled all the way down in August; how the water always sloshed within its curvy sides, and into the pool at the end. Then I brought up Proverbs 21:1: The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. We decided that when we brush our teeth each day, we’ll endeavor to pray for the heart of President-elect Trump; for our country. As God says in Jeremiah,
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
- Return a blessing for an insult. While my kids spooned up mac and cheese for lunch—after we talked about how they’re feeling—we talked about how more than half of our country feels scared or angry. Our country is extremely divided. So we discussed ways to be sensitive, and to speak life even—especially—when others are feeling death or speaking it.
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