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Scarsdale Expert Addresses Post-Election Anxiety

Dr. Paul J. Donahue is the director of Child Development Associates in Scarsdale and author of "Parenting Without Fear: Letting Go of Worry and Focusing On What Really Matters."
Dr. Paul J. Donahue is the director of Child Development Associates in Scarsdale and author of "Parenting Without Fear: Letting Go of Worry and Focusing On What Really Matters." Photo Credit: Submitted

SCARSDALE, N.Y. -- How are you feeling post-election, Westchester?

According to Paul J. Donahue , Ph.D, director of Child Development Associates in Scarsdale and author of "Parenting Without Fear," there's a general feeling of anxiety across the nation and in particular, our local area. In some ways, he said, it's the biggest upheaval since 9/11 and for many, feels a bit cataclysmic.

"We all have to take a breath," he suggested, especially when it comes to dealing with our children. "In many ways we have to help our kids talk about how they are feeling and what they are hearing."

Social media is exploding and, depending on their ages, they are getting a lot of mixed messages, he explained.

"We have to help our kids feel hopeful. "In most cases, things are not likely to be as dire as people are saying."

That means taking a step back and trying to understand the choices our country has made. "There is a lot of anger and animosity towards those who didn't vote the way some had hoped and we need to understand that those people are not necessarily racists or prejudiced. More than voting for a personality or an individual, many voted for change," explained Dr. Donahue.

To help our children during what can feel like a traumatic time we need to keep in mind three things.

1. We need to help them understand the story. "And the story is: It was a close election that could have gone either way. A lot of people had some very strong feelings about each candidate -- positive and negative -- and we need to understand why people made those choices and better understand their concerns."

2. We want to get the facts in order to monitor our children’s feelings and manage our own emotions. "There is a lot of fear that kids of all ages are feeling," said Dr. Donahue. "And some of it is because they see the anxiety in their parents.”

"We need to talk about their concerns, about things they've heard in the media or from their peers that have made them sad or depressed. And get the facts straight. We need to be careful with our words - not be dire in our predictions -- and try to remain hopeful.”

3. We need to reassure. For many of our kids, depending on their ages, their lives won't change in dramatic ways. It’s important to let them know that things will seem mostly the same under the new administration, said Dr. Donahue. With young adults, you will most likely have to have more serious discussions re: the Supreme Court, the environment, etc., but hopefully this can also help give your teens and college students a newfound sense of activism. "That's a good thing and we should encourage them to get involved in the political process," he stressed.

We also need to let kids of all ages know that some of the more dramatic things they've heard about, like mass deportations and building a wall, are probably not going to happen.
"Most likely there won't be as much upheaval as we've been led to believe," he said.

Remind them, too, the country has been through difficult times before and we have survived and continued to thrive as a nation.

Dr. Donahue is a nationally-recognized clinical psychologist and leading consultant and expert in the field of parenting and children's mental health. He can be reached at (914)723-2929 or at pjd@drpauldonahue.com or via www.drpauldonahue.com/ .

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