It’s been a long time since our nation was collectively shocked from coast to coast by a single event. Granted some will say they were confident of the election outcome but most Americans are united on this post-election day by one emotion: stunned disbelief.
If adults are feeling this, then our children are too. In the last few days of the presidential race two ads portrayed the all too obvious flaws of both candidates and one ended with the statement, “Our children are watching.”
In the fall of 2001, our two youngest daughters sat in their high school classrooms and watched as the twin towers imploded into mountains of debris and dust before the eyes of the nation. One of them was struggling with insecurity and self-doubt, normal for every teenager alive, but this event catalyzed her angst into a genuine depression. Her wavering confidence was crushed in the rubble of the towers. Though we tried to have conversations with her, she concluded for a season that life wasn’t dependable. Stability wasn’t real. The system couldn’t be trusted.
Our children are watching and they need to us to listen and lead.
Don’t underestimate the impact of this election on especially vulnerable teens.
Today every classroom in America will talk about the election. Will every dinner table tonight do the same?
Here are some questions for kids from first grade to seniors in high school. Ask them today and regularly in the days and weeks to come:
What did your teachers say about the election?
About the victor?
About the system and the process?
What did your friends say?
And don’t let your kids just give the facts. Probe for an emotional response. Ask how did that make you feel? Why did you feel that?
Help your children name their emotions. Fear and anger are two primary responses with a host of other names: anxiety, worry, confusion, insecurity. The opposite emotion might be jubilance if they were on the side of the victor. That should be discussed too, so you can guide your children away from pride or arrogance or a critical spirit toward others.
What comments have you heard about our new president, Mr. Trump? Kids parrot what they hear moms and dads say at home, so no doubt there have been or will be hateful, angry, fearful or prideful arrogant words thrown around the playground or in the lunchroom at school. How do those comments make you feel?
For older kids who have certainly heard the sleazy sex talk on the now infamous tape, ask them how they feel today about this man being our leader? Talk about sin, repentance, restitution, and salvation. Ask them what they believe should be our response and why?
Then take your family together to the Rock of stability.
Get out your Bible and start reading the book of Daniel to your kids. This is a perfect time to bring the greater Story into the swirl of our present-day story. You as parents are to be role models of stability for your children. Show them you trust and believe in a God who rules over the affairs of men and nations.
The first chapter of Daniel describes how the king of Babylon besieged and conquered Israel and carried away a number of its people, including youth who would be educated in the ways of the Babylonians. Then it tells of Daniel’s decision to reject the food and drink of the Babylonians and remain obedient to God’s law.
Read this chapter together tonight at dinner or at bedtime. Ask your kids read some of the verses too, even though some of the words are challenging.
As you read ask some of these questions to help your kids to engage with the story.
- What does it mean when it says that Nebuchadnezzar “besieged” Jerusalem? (Look it up in a dictionary to get the full picture.)
- In verse two it says that “the Lord gave the king of Judah into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand. Ask what does that mean? (answer: He allowed Babylon to conquer Judah.) Why do you think God allowed that? Ask them if they are surprised God did this? Does that make you feel afraid? Why do you think He sometimes allow things to happen to our nation that we might consider bad?
- What did the king of Babylon ask for in verses three and four? How do you think those teenagers felt about being taken from their families? Let your kids tell you how they would feel if they were marched off to a foreign land to live without their families.
- What did Daniel do in verse eight? Why do you think this is important?
- What do you think it means in verse nine when it says that God gave Daniel favor? How does the rest of the chapter show that God is in control even as Daniel is dealing with how to act when he is a captive?
- And be sensitive with young ones who might be fearful of being taken away after hearing this story. Listen to your kids with your heart not just your head.
If you want to continue this story the rest of this week, you can read about the dream Daniel interpreted in chapter 2, the story of the fiery furnace in chapter 3, the hand writing on the wall in chapter 5, and the lion’s den in chapter 6. I suggest you pray and let your kids each pray out loud as you finish reading.
No matter where you stop, don’t miss these words at the end of the story of Daniel: “The people who know their God will display strength and take action. And those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many” (Daniel 11:32-33).
My prayer for you is for you as parents, that you will take action to help your children stand strong on what feels at times like unstable ground. Give them reasons to be like Daniel, who stood tall by faith in His God in the face of possible death multiple times. Your kids will, or might already be, facing multiple threats to their faith. What is their anchor? What is their stability? What is your source of security?
It can’t be what happens nationally. It must be what happens eternally.
Take advantage of this moment of national change, of our country’s momentarily united focus on an event that Daniel tells us is not a surprise to our God. Talk to your children and teach them about our God who can be trusted no matter what happens in this life.