Dear Bay Farm Families,
Emotions are especially high this election season. Many have already voted, and many will exercise that right on Tuesday.
As a Montessori school, our focus remains on nurturing and challenging each of our community members to develop the skills and courage we need to be our best selves, whatever our political parties or national origins. We believe in grace and courtesy, respect and inclusion, and in every individual unleashing their full potential, whatever that potential and their beliefs. We do not believe in divisiveness; instead we seek to thwart it.
Bay Farm is not a political institution: in our community, we have republicans, democrats, libertarians, and everything between. What unites us is our openness to civil discourse, our willingness to lean into complexity, our intention to listen deeply to those with whom we disagree, and our desire to be compassionate, respectful, and empathetic to all.
At School, you may count on us to listen to your children, to not promote any personal political beliefs we may individually hold, to keep a safe space for the students, and to help guide our students as they seek age-appropriate understanding about complicated concepts. We do not force our ideas upon our students.
At home, we wanted to offer some guidance on supporting your child during the election season. As parents, many of us are naturally protective and may wish to shelter our children from the distresses with which we are grappling. We must remember that children are sensitive and can sense our emotions and moods as adults, resulting in their own anxious feelings. Even very young children pick up on pieces of conversations and news stories, sometimes filling in missing information with their own imaginations. Children will ask questions about what is happening, and we need to be prepared to respond. Here are some suggestions from a Montessori perspective for talking about the election with your children:
- Follow the child. Pay close attention to your words and media around children. Respond to their curiosity and feelings with sensitivity to their age and stage of development.
- Listen Carefully. Before jumping in with explanations, take a breath and listen, and invite them to express themselves by saying, “Tell me more about that.” Listen carefully.
- Keep it positive. Reassure children that elections are a good thing and a way for everyone to have a say in big decisions and participate in our democracy. Children shouldn't fear elections or voicing their opinions.
- Help them respect other opinions. Let them know other people will always have different ideas and opinions and that this is okay. It is not a reason to not like someone, but an opportunity to understand them.
- Keep it simple. Answer their questions briefly and honestly in a language they can understand without adding more than what they asked.
- Provide a sense of security. Acknowledge and name their feelings, and provide encouragement and emotional support when they feel confused or worried. Make a genuine effort to relate to their confusion or concerns.
- Offer information. Explain how elections work. This can be as simple for young children as “everyone gets one vote and the person with the most votes wins,” while older children can learn more about complex issues such as the Electoral College, voter rights, and history.
- Ask open-ended questions. Examples include: “How are you feeling about the elections coming up?” “What do you think about that?” “What questions do you have about the election?” “What are you wondering about?”
- Allow them the opportunity to have their own opinions and ideas. Be a model of all the ways we can listen and learn from each other, as this provides a valuable lesson in good citizenship, starting in our homes.
In addition to taking care of our children during a stressful election and post-election season, we also need to take care of ourselves and our communities. Much of the advice above can apply to ourselves, to our friendships, and our families, especially when there may be differing opinions.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, there will be millions of delighted people and millions of people who are distressed. And, elections have happened in our country for hundreds of years and will again happen next year, and the years following. We recognize and respect the diversity of our community and the diversity of our voting and political opinions.
Bay Farm Montessori Academy will continue to be a supportive environment for each of our community members.