At my daughter’s high school yesterday, there was an announcement acknowledging that as many students are probably upset by the results as are happy, and that disagreement and different views are fine. But what is not fine is being disrespectful of each other. I think that is a great message and something we all need to remember.
I do know that the election results have triggered a whole host of sad and dangerous reactions. If you feel suicidal or triggered, remember there is always (24/7) the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273- TALK or you can live chat here: http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/
Now I know you may be feeling anger. That is ok. Often we are told anger is a bad feeling, but that is not true. Anger is a feeling, and no feeling is a bad feeling. We need to channel that anger into healthy outlets and productive action. Destructive acts represent neither of those things. Peacefully protesting discrimination and violence and ideals with which you do not agree is good. Violently protesting an individual or group of individuals is not. Taking a kickboxing class to take the edge off is good. Punching another human or throwing bricks through a window is not good.
Next thing I want to do is to reassure you. Most people do not share the awful views that have gotten so much attention these recent months. I have to believe that this is even true of most of the people who voted for our president elect. This is not what Americans are about. There are people, to be sure, that do have these views, but we do not have to accept them or stand idly by when others are oppressed or harassed or treated without the respect they deserve. We, as a country, have been in this situation before and have come out the other side. This is not something you are not old enough to have seen in your own lifetimes, but this is one place you can trust the older adult generation since we have.
So what can you do to move from
Limit your social media consumption for a while and be really critical of what you read online (I say that all the time about health info, and this is no different!). One of the big lessons this election has taught us all, is that misinformation (aka lies) can be spread quickly online. It’s true for cyber-bullying and it’s true for “news”. Don't spend a lot of time consuming bad news - that is not good for your mental health nor for your mood. You can set aside 10 minutes each day to catch up on news, but don't keep checking your social media feed all day long for more bad news. Don’t share information that you aren't sure is accurate. Don’t retweet or repost negative information. Here’s an interesting fact – do you know that a negative tweet is 2.5 times (yes more than twice as likely) to get retweeted than a positive one? Which gets me to my next suggestion:
Let’s change the flavor of social media right now by sharing positive stories. I myself see so many sad and negative stories about discrimination and hate and violence and suicide and other awful things after this election. We need to address those problems certainly. But let’s share positive stories too – like when we see one kid standing up for another. Or when people volunteer to help others. Or when a student starts a new club at school to address a social need. Let’s lead by example. Let’s use the power of social media to remind all of us that there is more good than evil in the world. Historically bad news travels faster and further. Let’s change that.
In our communities and in our schools, let’s all reach out to our Muslim, Mexican, Black, LGBTQ friends (really to any friends who are fearful about hateful acts after the election) and tell them we care about them and they are important to us and that we are happy to have them in our lives and country and community, and that we support them.
Let’s all speak out loud and clear that we accept and value everyone no matter their skin color, gender identity, sexual orientation, country of origin, religion, economic status, education. That is true for those of us who supported our Democrat candidate, and equally true for those who supported our president-elect. Like I said at the beginning, in my heart I do not believe most Trump supporters share the bigoted views we have seen highlighted so much.
So teens out there who do support Trump (and that is probably about half of you) prove me right! Show your friends and classmates and adults around you that you do NOT stand for discrimination, that you do NOT stand for harassment of immigrants, that you do NOT oppose freedom of religion that this country was founded on, that you will NOT stand by when the less fortunate are being ignored.
And teens who supported Hillary or another candidate, you too need to speak out on the same. You must not insult or disrespect others who are different from YOU – who might have different views than you or who see the world differently.
All teens (and adults as well!)– do not cut off views of others. Continue to have discussions about opposing views. Read about the views of others. Don’t un-follow or refuse to be friends with someone whose views are different than your own. Don’t just find evidence to reinforce your own view. None of us are right all the time about everything, and we can learn something from every single person with whom we interact every day. Don’t ignore those opportunities.
Lastly, if you are unhappy with what you are seeing now, remember at least in our country we have system where the voice of every citizen can be heard. My own mother did not grow up in a country where voting, protesting and freedom of speech were protected, and that is why she came here. How do you make your voice heard? Through your vote and through civic involvement. Fewer than 1/5th of youth voted in this election, and typically youth are under-represented in votes cast. Let your generation be the one that changes that. If you do not feel represented by any candidate, consider a career in government or politics or public service. Our country is the better for diverse views, citizens and leadership and you each are a part of that equation.
So now, grieve, be angry, digest what is happening. But then figure out how YOU are going to move all of us forward to acceptance, equality, respect and hope. Lead by example. Each of us can continue to make the world a better place if each of us does just a little bit