Johnson: Be a model of empathy for your kids, regardless of whether your candidate won or lost the election (column)
No matter what happens with the election results, remember that our kids are listening and watching. They may not be able to vote yet, but how we model our opinions and passionate feelings about important issues is how our children learn to express their own opinions.
Whether you believe in preserving open space or not, whether you think tobacco buyers should pay more for their products, whether our schools deserve more funding or not, whether you are Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian or Peace and Freedom Party (yes, there is such a party), whether you are conservative or liberal, keep the following concepts in mind:
1. It’s OK to disagree. Sometimes the best results come from a healthy, intelligent debate. It’s not a bad thing to question the status quo. After all, it’s this type of thinking that founded our country. Just try to do it as kindly and calmly as possible.
2. Tap into your empathetic side, and try to see the issue from the other person’s point of view. As Atticus Finch said in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Demonstrating empathy shows your child how to handle his or her own conflicts with empathy. This can’t be taught. It can only be modeled. Learning this skill will grow your child’s emotional intelligence and ability to get along with all kinds of different people.
3. Channel your inside voice, avoid all caps and listen more than talk. Your kids will adopt this skill, and it will take him or her very far in life. You will be increasing your child’s bank of politeness by practicing these communication styles.
4. When all else fails, say with a smile, “Let’s agree to disagree.” You can still like someone and not agree with their political views. Learning to move on from an argument teaches your child a healthy and respectful way to deal with prickly situations.
5. Lastly, if you are involved in a cause you care deeply about, volunteerism speaks volumes to your child and rubs off. Civic and community engagement enables you to feel less helpless and more connected with your community, and your children observing your involvement, whether it’s writing a letter to the editor in support of a candidate or making calls to remind people to vote, will encourage them to get involved in their own lives.
A great place to start is the Youth Leadership Council of the Eagle River Youth Coalition. The Happiness Sprinklings through the Bright Future Foundation is a fun and low time commitment opportunity to spread cheer and positivity. Communities That Care is seeking youth to contribute to an ongoing local mental health project. Something fun to do together is bell ringing for the Vail Salvation Army. You don’t have to look far for ways to be involved in our community.
Moving on from Election Day will look different for everyone. Just try to remember we are one community and need one another to thrive, especially for the sake of our youth.
Carol Johnson is the community education manager with the Eagle River Youth Coalition.