For those who looked forward to celebrating the election of the first female president, Donald Trump’s win has been a shock. The outcome of the election has also left parents wondering how, exactly, to explain the outcome to their children—specifically, daughters. While some moms have taken to social media to share their daughters’ questions about what it means for them, others are concerned Hillary Clinton’s defeat will discourage the next generation from pursuing leadership roles.
If you’re wondering how to ensure your daughter or son grows stronger and bolder after this election—rather than internalizing any messages of negativity and bigotry—it’s reassuring to hear there are practical things you can do to empower and embolden your family. Because even though we missed out on electing a female president this time, we can still equip our children, boys and girls alike, to be the next generation of leaders.
Follow these expert-approved tips, and maybe it’ll be your own daughter running for president in 2050.
Don’t hide the election outcome from your children; talk to them about it instead. “We need to remind them that they are safe; we need to share that Hillary won the popular vote so they aren’t alone; we need to remind them that every person has an opportunity to make a difference,” says psychologist and leadership consultant Stacey Radin.
Radin, who is author of Brave Girls: Raising Young Women With Passion and Purpose to Become Powerful Leaders, also suggests that parents watch Clinton’s concession speech with their daughters. It’s an opportunity to discuss the speech’s messages of empowerment, as in Clinton’s statement: “To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and to achieve your own dreams.”
To build her leadership skills, talk to your daughter about how it’s important to be brave, to “defy the status quo, and to advocate for yourself and others,” Radin suggests. “It’s about feeling confident to be authentic; stand up and advocate for herself and others or make choices that may not be easy but she knows what’s right,” Radin says. Instances of bullying at school can be opportunities to stand up for her values and what’s important to her—even, or especially, when doing so is scary.
“From the moment a parent finds out they have a daughter, they begin to act differently, and they need to be very aware,” Radin says. “From an early age, parents should be cognizant of the messages they are sending.” Behavior as subtle as telling daughters to “be careful” while playing—while encouraging boys to get their hands dirty in the playground—subtly coddles girls and discourages bravery.
For this reason, it’s crucial that parents “allow their daughter’s sense of self to come alive without thwarting and inadvertently expecting her to conform to societal norms,” Radin says. “These values continue as she develops and then is faced with the age-old challenge Who am I?,” Radin says. If you’re enforced the right messages early on, Radin says, she “will already have the foundation to explore and embrace her power.”
“Girls need us now more than ever as their role model, their coach, their mentors,” says Radin. She urges mothers to model strong leadership, although she’s quick to point out that she doesn’t mean mothers have to be CEOs.
“It means being a leader of your own life—standing up for what you believe in,” Radin says. So when you’re challenged or picked on, let your daughter see you respond assertively and courageously.
Finally, Radin says the election outcome is an opportunity to explain to daughters that “there is a concept called resilience, that we fall and we are strong enough to get back up and get back in the game.” To build resilience, parents should remain calm when their daughter struggles, offering support rather than jumping in and doing things for her.
“Know and encourage her to take risks and fail—fail miserably!” Radin adds. “We learn more from failures than we do successes.” Resilience will help girls master any challenge they face in future. That way, as they grow into womanhood, they’ll have the best possible chance at becoming the successful, grounded, and embolden leader they were meant to be.
Browse our roundup of inspiring and empowering reads and tell us how you plan to tackle this topic with your kids.