In the week since the presidential election plenty of families have been asking: What next?
Some are dissatisfied with what happened on a national level and are looking for ways to effect change in whatever way they can.
Others are searching for ways to help heal some of the rifts exposed during the contentious campaign.
How best to meet those goals with your kids?
Psychologist Richard Weissbourd, co-director of the Make Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, offers some advice.
1. Help children develop empathy
Developing empathy is important, especially empathy for people who are different from you. Almost everybody has empathy, the issue is who do they have empathy for? And do they have empathy for people who are different from them in race and culture and class and gender? It's important to widen a child's circle of concern to include those people and many other people who may be invisible to them.
2. Take action instead of remaining passive
In the first couple days after the election, many people were feeling paralyzed and now they are turning to action and wondering what kind of actions they can undertake. Passivity can be very dangerous in the sense that it can really lead to people being anxious and depressed, and it helps a great deal for people to take action. One way is to do service of different kinds, and particularly doing service in diverse groups-- helping your kids enter groups with people who are different from them in race, class and culture, and also people who are different from them politically. The exposure to other political views will help them in creating bridges and having conversations with people who have different views.
3. Make service a higher priority
Encourage your kids to cut back on all the extra-curricular activities and to cut back on all the AP courses, and instead to get involved in service and ethical engagement. I've been involved in this college admissions report that now 150 colleges have signed, and all the Ivy League deans, that encourages high-school students to focus more on meaningful ethical engagement. It's very important for young people to lead more balanced lives and to be involved in achievement, but to also be involved in many kinds of service. There are ways for students to get involved in service within their schools to create more caring and inclusive communities within their own schools, to have conversations across the political divide, or to organize to prevent bullying or sexual harassment in schools.
4. Find ways to do service together as a family
Families may want to work for a political candidate, someone running for Congress in two years. Families can take up a cause together that they really care about-- the environment, or bullying, or refugee children. There are all kinds of organizations where families can volunteer and volunteer productively. Sometimes you can do things from your own home, just by making calls or raising money. Particularly for people who are upset, and feel like people they care about or issues they care about are really at risk, there are a lot of organizations out there that they can tap into.
5. Create space for kids to talk and for parents to listen
There can be a temptation in situations like this to try to over-interpret things or guide our kids when we may want to just start by asking questions about how they're making sense of these different political views and where are they landing and why. And I think it's appropriate to share our political views and our ethical values in the context of those conversations, but we really need to find out where they're at and how they're making sense of all this. So I would advocate for starting with listening. Listening deeply and asking questions and then sorting out with your kids these different views and where you land and where they land.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
To hear the full interview, click the blue player above.