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Election 2016: A Message to the SENG Community

By Stephanie Tolan.

I was asked immediately after the shock of the election results to write a piece for SENG to help parents deal with their gifted children’s anxieties about the results and their consequences. It has taken me eleven days to come to term with my own grief and deep distress enough to take on this task. Today I was finally able to write a blog post, which you can find at

Many years ago when I was speaking to a group of parents of gifted and highly gifted children, a distraught and furious mother said to me, “My daughter has only one childhood, and her school is stealing it from her.” I pointed out that if she lived in Sarajevo, where at that moment parents were having to keep children indoors because snipers were killing people who went outside to get water and food, she would not be able to simply demand that the war stop to keep her daughter’s childhood safe and intact. She would in that situation have to spend her energy doing her best to help her daughter contend with what was going on in their world that she couldn’t make go away. I suggested (and she was not entirely happy with this) that if she could not get her school to change, she needed to help her daughter deal as best she could with the reality they were facing, and find alternative educational resources. She could not force the world to give her daughter what she wanted her daughter to have.

The same is true for all of us now. At this moment in America’s political history, while we can’t know what the future will bring, we do know that our gifted kids were watching—and listening—throughout the course of the campaign. They saw a presidential candidate behave toward other human beings in ways they had been taught not to behave in kindergarten. Many of them watched as lie after lie was exposed and threat after threat was levied by the candidate. And now the adults in their world have voted this man into office as president of their country. They understand how many real human beings in their world are endangered if this president’s policies reflect everything he has said and stood for during the campaign.

How do we deal with our children’s fears? We do it in the same way parents have always had to help their frightened children come to terms with the real or imagined threats and hardships of their world. We first assure them of our love and concern. Then we make sure they know the Golden Rule and model its use in our own lives. We take action in some way, even baby steps, to model participation in the working of our world, and we encourage them to think for themselves and take their own action (usually with our help and support) in whatever way seems possible for them. We show them how many other people are taking action as well and share with them the stories of the heroes of the past and present who have stood up and continue to stand up for the values of love, compassion, caring and sharing.

Just remember the critical importance of dealing with your own fears before you address your children’s. Model standing up for what you care about, hug them close and invite them to join you.

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