For the past year we haven’t been able to escape it- the impending election. Today it’s finally here, after months and months of coverage, commercials, Facebook ads and rants- the day has come.
I personally have never seen so much political anxiety on a individual and national level. Every single person who I’ve spoken to has experienced significant levels of anxiety no matter who their choice of candidate is. To say this election is unusual is an understatement.
Something else I have noticed, as I am sure you have as well, is the online community has become extremely nasty towards one another. When it comes to religion and politics, there is a very small chance anything we say will sway someone to think in an opposite way. I have heard so many times in the past few months “ I had no idea * insert name* was such an idiot, so I stopped talking to them!” in relation to the election. I have also witnessed so much online name-calling and mudslinging, it would make a sailor blush. It is more than okay when together with like minded folk to talk and wonder about how people could vote for the “other” candidate, however, we need to be cognizant of how we react to each other from behind a computer screen.
Bullying is bullying, even if it is under the guise for a just cause. It is okay to put up memes, updates and whatever else you please, but going on to other people’s pages or specifically targeting someone for the sake of shaming or name calling still constitutes as being a bully. This election has everyone up in arms, and I too find myself getting incredibly upset over certain candidates or props. No one is remotely close to being perfect. What is important to keep in mind is just because we are angry at politics does not give us a free pass to go and beat up on strangers or friends. You know that saying “agree to disagree?” That applies here as well. Let’s face it, when was the last time you hear someone say “ wow, that meme in that comment thread, about 50 comments down really changed how I’m going to vote!”
The truth is however set we are in our internal beliefs, that person who is making those outrages statements is equally as set in theirs. Telling them off is just going to make them angry, which may feel good to us initially, but when was the last time hate or anger turned into something productive? This is not meant to be preachy, rather to invoke a sense of taking a step back to ask ourselves “is this really who I am- someone who makes hateful comments for no real reason?”
No matter the outcome, we will always need our friends. No matter the outcome, it is important to embody what we want most from this election, which is to make this country better. Making this country better is something we can all start doing by being a little nicer to one another.
The good news? There is one huge thing we can all agree on- democrat or republican, libertarian or writing in for Bernie, there is no greater rush than getting that “I voted” sticker.
“He hit me!” “She stole my toy!” How often have we heard these statements on the playground, in the car or even in strange places where kids are in separate rooms, not even remotely in the same place? When it comes to children, there is almost as much literal mud slinging, finger pointing and name calling as in any presidential election year.
I won’t lie to you, usually the fastest way of resolution is stepping in as an adult and solving the problem ourselves (“No, Billy, your sister was downstairs, there’s no physical way she could have hit you from 50ft away. Apologize.”) At times, rationalizing with a young child can feel like herding some seriously sassy cats.
As a mental health professional, I truly believe in “choose your battles.” That said, there is a good reason why we have an obligation to our children to teach and assist them in how to problem solve on their own. Kids aren’t born as natural problem solvers or sharers. Why? Their brains! Our brains develop into our 20s. Problem solving, empathy, complex emotions and rational thinking are all skills we develop later on in life- this is why we don’t hold kids to the same standards as adults.
Because kids are more “back brain” based (survival and instinctual parts of our brain) we need to work out their brains like a muscle to engage their “front brain” (reasoning, logic, empathy) so they can begin learning these skills early on. Your kid isn’t going to get it right all the time- when they are arguing with their sibling, for example, they will need a moderator who is willing to take the time to step in and say “okay, both of you are upset. How are you both going to fix this?” Even if you’re met with a blank gaze, it is important to push, “ I’m not always going to be in the room to solve your problems, let’s do this together. I’ll listen and help you guys decide what’s fair.” Chances are your kids will feel much better because they not only got a say, but they were empowered by solving this all on their own!
This same principle can be applied for consequences in asking “since you didn’t do your chores last night like we agreed, what do you think is a fair consequence?” Many parents are pleasantly surprised to find that instead of their child answering “nothing” they are usually happy to be involved in the first place. This also helps engage their problem solving brain parts. The more these parts are used in the brain, the stronger these abilities get. With younger kids, we can tailor these skills to be age appropriate by first giving them options (“which sounds more fair to you, no tablet for the night or more chores tonight?”)
Yes, this takes up more time. This is not because I don’t see that in addition to your 40+ hours of working per week, making dinner, doing laundry and cleaning are going unnoticed. It’s okay if there are nights your kids have fries for dinner or you let your kid go on errands in their favorite Halloween costume in June. In the long run, these are not the things that will alter their future; what will alter their future is their ability to engage with other people from a place of empathy, understanding and knowledge that they will have to solve issues on their own. It is hard to see kids upset, crying or disappointed when there is a quick fix. However, the rewards are much greater when we see our children out on the playground assisting other children during playtime to ensure everyone gets a fair turn, or as young adults having the ability to assert themselves in a productive manner.
And for all those times they are arguing and yelling at each other? Just remember, if Lester Holt could do it, you can do it too!
Alexis has been a part time contributor to the online website Patientworthy which is dedicated to education and awareness of rare and serious diseases. Links to articles written by Alexis: