Supporting Young People in the Current Political Environment
by School's Out Washington | | Posted under
School’s Out Washington remains committed to ensuring that all children and youth in our state feel welcome, safe, and have the opportunity to thrive, and that youth serving providers are prepared to offer support during this uncertain time in our nation.
Young people from all backgrounds experience a range of emotions during turbulent and uncertain times—particularly given the pandemic and the contentiousness of the election year. This election finds youth participating in elections and voting more than ever, sometimes at odds with family members and friends, and, for some, worried that this election will have immediate consequences for their future.
Expanded learning programs have an opportunity to help children and youth process their feelings and experiences, particularly in what may be the most challenging post-election time this country as seen. We offer these tools and resources to support the social-emotional needs of our state’s youth and hold space to process your own feelings, fears, and hopes.
High-quality expanded learning opportunities offer spaces for all youth to flourish, and we are dedicated to continuing to address transphobia, racism, sexism, heterosexism, xenophobia, and other discriminatory practices.
We hope these resources can provide some tools to assist you in your work over the coming weeks and months. Please contact us if there are any additional needs or ideas on how SOWA can support you and your youth.
The School’s Out Washington Team
Adapted from our partners at the Illinois Afterschool for Children and Teens (ACT Now) Coalition:
Consider the mental health needs of youth, families, and staff
The day of an election can be stressful as we await results, and the day after an election can be stressful as we process the results. Try to incorporate mental health time for your staff during these days in case people need time to process.
- This article provides a thoughtful approach to talking about the election with children and youth.
- Provide a place to talk for youth, families, and/or staff. This could be a Zoom call or in-person. Just providing a safe place to share concerns and provide support can be a large comfort. If possible, consider asking a mental health counselor to join this meeting.
- Provide mental health resources for youth as well as opportunities to discuss emotions about the election. Consider using the resources from these post-election student support article from Teaching Tolerance as well as resources from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
- If your organization provides mental healthcare to youth of color and/or LGBTQ+ youth ages 10-13, check out new funding from The Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health.
Be ready to have hard conversations
This article--Post Election: Don't Neglect Those Emotions--from Teaching Tolerance provides an important social-emotional framework for students and adults.
Have a policy plan
If folks in your community are upset about an election result or a possible policy change, they can also consider taking advocacy action, which may make them feel more empowered in these situations. Your program may consider providing a common space to come up with a protest or petition in response to specific policy issues.
Be prepared for road closures or protests
After elections, folks may want to take to the streets to express their concerns about a result. Whether they are organized protests or not, sometimes this can lead to road closures or other traffic changes. Keep these in mind and plan for how your program might react to these changes.
Be aware that certain groups of students may need additional support
Either due to violence, intimidation, or historical trauma; many groups of youth may have especially heighted fear and anxiety on and after election day. Below are some resources for support.
- Know Your Rights. All young people have rights. This resource from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) can help your program find topic-specific information for your staff or young people.
- Immigration Law Help. Many programs serve young people who have questions or concerns about their immigration or citizenship rights. Washington State has several agencies whose programs help young people and their families connect to information and resources. Learn more here.
- Trans Families (formerly Gender Diversity). In addition to myriad resources, Trans Families offers dozens of parent support groups (including a group for Spanish-speaking families), a trans youth leadership program, special topics groups, and youth support groups, with more programs in development.
- Odyssey Youth Movement. Odyssey Youth Movement, located in Spokane, is a youth-led, adult-supported organization committed to creating, sustaining, and advocating for safe and affirming programs, policies, and services for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth community. They have created a resource list for professionals.
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