The election of the next President of the United States is drawing near with just two weeks to go. Many Americans (and I suspect many non-Americans as well) have been counting down the days to the end of what has been a brutal campaign. Like many parents I’ve struggled with just how, exactly, to talk to my kids about this election.
Earlier this year, I started to see articles popping up about how to talk to children about Donald Trump, specifically. But I wonder, too, about how to talk to children about the extraordinary thing they are witnessing in this election cycle: the breakdown of mutual agreements – spoken and unspoken – about how political discourse happens in an open and free democracy with peaceful transitions of power.
To be sure, American politics have always been contentious. Heated debates and party divisions are not new. What feels new to me, though, is the unwillingness on all sides to truly listen with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.
It is this type of listening that I try to model and teach my children. It is this type of listening that helps me to experience being seen and understood. And I think it is this type of listening that can and will ultimately create healing if we are willing to step into it.
Listening is one of my greatest challenges as a parent. In the hustle of day-to-day life – school, work, meals, nap, laundry, dishes – I can sometimes become so focused on what needs to happen (according to me) that I don’t always stop and listen with a willingness to be changed when my kids try to express something to me. I might stop and look at them and pay attention as they speak. I may even silently congratulate myself for being so patient.
But if I’m just trying to make them feel heard rather than actually listening and taking in what they are saying, willing to adjust course based on what they express, am I really modeling how I hope they will show up in the world?
As adults, whether we mean to or not, we are constantly setting an example for the children of the world. They see and pay attention and learn from us, for better or for worse. It is for this reason that conversations about Donald Trump are essential. And it is also for this reason that I think we would all do well to consider whether we are confusing polite waiting for true listening. Are we sitting quietly while our fellow citizens express their frustrations and fears, congratulating ourselves on being so cool-headed, while we simply wait for them to finish so we can respond with whatever preloaded retort applies? Or are we truly listening with a willingness to be changed, to consider the other side, and to wonder, together, how we can address and ensure our common well-being?
How open are you to changing your position after listening to someone’s point of view? Has this ever happened to you?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Ms. V of South Korea. Photo credit: Jay Phagan. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.