Mindfully Navigating our Reactions to Change – especially when we don’t like it…

“Is the world going to end?” asked our son matter-of-factly the morning after Donald Trump was elected. Though I was feeling that way at some level, I was still shocked to hear these words come from his almost six-year-old mouth. Sure, there had been talk about the US election in our household; however, I didn’t think there had been enough to provoke such a question

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with gratitude for this image

from him. I answered “No,” though inside, I couldn’t stop feeling like I might be lying…

This situation has me thinking about how to navigate such discussions in the aftermath of the election (and other difficult social / political issues). This post is perhaps more of a question, as I am still figuring out how best to proceed. With that in mind, as I reflect on the past few weeks, a few ideas of what I have been learning:

  1. Our children pick up on what we are talking about, and how we might feel about it.
  2. Children hear about what is going on in the world, whether we talk about it or not; and when we aren’t talking about it, they are left to the messages others are offering.
  3. We can use difficult times to talk about important issues – be they climate change, a surprise (and maybe scary) political change, family job changes, etc. in age appropriate ways. Our son has recently become passionate about wind turbines and saving polar bears and building a robot with an extendable arm to erase the racist language on his school’s bathroom ceiling.
  4. We can notice and attend to our emotional reactions, so that we don’t get lost in them while interacting with others. Even in the midst of my growing fear about what lies ahead, I want to be loving & present with my family.
  5. We can continue to model, teach and practice the values that we hold dear. Consent and respect, for example have become regular topics of discussion with both our son and daughter.

Here are a few articles I have found helpful as I reflect on this question (although they are geared towards older kids).

This last article, Responding with Love and Courage, by Mindfulness teacher and psychologist, Jack Kornfield, offered me hope – providing some guidance on how I might act, while also embodying kindness & compassion. He offers the following:

“Sometimes we need to get up, shout out the truth, march, protest, do whatever is necessary to protect our life and the lives of others. The great exemplars of non-violence such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. were strategic and skilled in this way. They rallied people, used the courts, broke the law, blocked the way, negotiated, moved forward and back, found allies, and used money, power, shame, speeches, and politics all to stand up for what was right. But they did not act out of hate and violence. This is a powerful example. When self-righteous anger arises, we can let it go. Retaining our own fierce clarity, we too can seek justice, yet do so with a loving heart.”

We’ve got a lot of work to do…

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