The other day, I saw a Washington Post article talking about the 2016 election about a research study that showed young people got Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of that election. Not only does this belittle those who have experienced really difficult trauma in their lives, but it also is not helpful to our young people. We encourage a mindset that “if I don’t get a trophy or get my way, then I can blame my reactions and behavior on a disorder,” rather than showing young people how to manage adversity.
Certainly, the political arena is very stressful and from the sidelines, it’s hard to watch the hateful advertisements and read the negative discourse on social media and not feel some stress. However, we enable our young people when we say they need counseling or have PTSD because they didn’t like the outcome of an election.
When I was a teenager, I experienced my first major disappointment. I had been a cheerleader from the time I was five years old and when it came time for my eighth-grade high school cheerleading tryouts I felt fairly confident that I would do a good job and make the team. I was shocked, disappointed, and extremely upset to find out that I did not make the team and, even worse, girls who had never even done cheerleading before made the team. I didn’t let that stop me from doing what I love or put me into a state of depression. I picked myself up and did Pop Warner cheerleading for football and then I tried out for the high school basketball squad and I made it. I learned from that disappointment and from trying again. That experience helped me face multiple disappointments and upsetting situations in my life because I built resilience.
It is said the strongest indicator of success is resilience. We need to demonstrate to our young people, how to deal with disappointments and build resilience. It is okay to feel disappointment, but we have to be able to keep it in perspective. We do that by managing our thoughts.
When we see our children getting upset because the outcome is not what they want, help them manage their thoughts to get to a mindset where they can become calm and centered by managing their thinking. Once they learn and practice this tool, they will be better equipped to handle the many adversities life brings.
So, how do you do this? Thoughts lead to feelings, feelings result in actions. So have your child begin by writing down the thoughts that are making her feel sad, anxious, or angry. Now, have her examine each thought asking “is that even true?” “What would have to be true for that to happen?” “What does that mean?” “How likely is that happen?” “What do you need to believe to feel hope and optimism?” Finally, take those thoughts and write a positive take on each one. Practice those thoughts.
So, no matter what happens in the election tonight, if the outcome is not what you or your child had hoped for, don’t let it come to despair. Use these mindset tools and build resilience.