Is there going to be a war?
The chatter in the playground started yesterday at school pick-up.
“Who won?” the kids were asking.
These were seven, eight and nine-year-olds asking about the US Election.
Six-year-old girls chanting “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary”.
Eight-year-old boys yelling “Dump the Trump”.
It’s an amazing discussion from a suburban school playground in Sydney, one more used to chatter about the cricket score, the latest Woolworths cards or whether to play handball or soccer.
But there is an unprecedented level of interest in the results of the US Election, an unprecedented level of interest from children who, when pressed, probably wouldn’t be able to name the outgoing US president, or even our own prime minister.
But the one name they all know is Donald Trump.
At 3pm yesterday, as I went to school to pick up my children the signs all pointed the same way.
"Looks like Donald Trump is going to get in," I told a group of primary school children trying to peer at my phone to see the results for themselves.
They all knew the candidates, they all knew that an election was taking place across the other side of the world and they all reacted the same way.
Does that mean we are going to have a war?
I firmly believe that children should be informed about what’s going on in our world.
My own kids, aged five, eight and nine sat with me until bedtime and watched the results pouring in. They sat, freshly bathed and in pyjamas transfixed on the floor watching Donald Trump’s victory speech, they asked me about what the red and blue states meant, they discussed Florida and Ohio and asked me whether Trump will move into the White House or stay in Trump Tower.
They were fascinated and horrified all at the same time but the same narrative kept cropping up, the same thoughts echoed hours earlier by their friends in the playground.
"But isn’t he a bad man Mama?" they said. "Will we have another war?"
How do you talk to kids about Donald Trump?
How do you talk to your children about events happening across the other side of the world? About how a bully, a misogynist, about how the “bad guy” won? How do you talk to your children about how a man branded evil, a bully, a creep now holds one of the most influential jobs in the world?
And how do you tell them that the reason he is there is because millions of people chose him, endorsed him, had enough respect for his viewpoint they gave him their vote.
How do we talk to our kids about the new president of the United States?
CNN commentator, Anthony Kapel Van Jones, discussed just this saying: “It’s hard to be a parent tonight for a lot of us.”
“You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bully.’ You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bigot.'”
"You tell your kids, ‘Do your homework and be prepared.’ And then you have this outcome.”
“You have people putting children to bed tonight, and … they’re afraid of, ‘how do I explain this to my children?'”
I don’t envy the job parents in America have, but what I do know is that here in Australia we have the benefit of distance.
We can explain to our children that we are partially insulated from these events. We can tell them that while the people of America have made their choice, even if we don’t agree with it isn’t going to have much of a direct influence on their lives.
We need to explain to them that sometimes people make choices out of fear - that many of them may have voted for Trump often voted out of fear. Whether or not that fear was justified it out weighed everything. They were fearful they would lose their jobs, that they wouldn’t be able to feed their families, that the world they wanted would only come about if they voted for Donald Trump.
We need to tell them that just because people voted for him they may not share all his views, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they too are bullies or disrespectful of women.
We need to reassure them that the world is not ending, there will not be a “world war”, that they are safe and live in a country far removed from the horrors of the world. But we also need to tell them that our leaders can’t just make decisions without consultations with others. That there are checks and balances in place to ensure this happens.
We need to tell them that they can make a difference, that their generation can if they practise tolerance and acceptance. If they see everyone as equal and show love and respect and compassion that they can change the world. That from little things big things really do grow.
And lastly we should show them this:
We should let them hear Hillary Clinton’s words of empowerment and tell them that one day a woman will be president of the United States, and one day we will get another woman in power in Australia and that if they want it enough that persons might just be them.
Hear Mia Freedman, Rosie Waterland, Jessie Stephens and others debriefing about the US election on a special Mamamia Out Loud bonus episode, here: