Many Clinton-supporting parents awoke Wednesday morning — if they slept Tuesday night — with a new problem: how to explain this election to their frightened, disappointed children.

Not an easy task for people who were feeling pretty awful themselves.

How do you explain this country's massive disagreement about values and direction? How do you convey confidence to the kids when you feel like something cataclysmic has happened? And even if you're pleased at the outcome, how do you celebrate while also encouraging your child not to gloat?

It's not easy, area experts on behavior and children said, but you can do it.
"You have to give messages of hope even when you feel hopeless," said George James, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Council for Relationships, who explained the outcome to his 6-year-old daughter Wednesday morning. Try to think of the positive things you can say, he advised: "I'm going to love you as a parent. We're going to find ways to make the most out of the situation."

Therapists said it's OK to let your kids see your sadness, even your tears. Use words like disappointed or frustrated or saddened so the kids have the vocabulary for their own feelings, said Alison Zisser, a child psychologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. You're modeling for them how to handle loss.

If you're having a rough time, she said, seek out an adult support system and let them see you doing that, too.

Still, catastrophizers needn't share every horrid consequence they can imagine. "If that's all kids see, their anxiety has nowhere to go but up," said Nicole Quinlan, a pediatric psychologist with Geisinger Health System.

James agreed that parents need limits. "It is important to share your pain," he said, "but you might not show all of it. You might want to also show that you are resilient."

He said parents can focus on teaching their own beliefs. "For my 6-year-old daughter, it's first about teaching good values, about respecting people and so forth," he said.

With an older child, you might talk about how to maintain integrity when those around you disagree.

James, who is African American, said he was saddened that the country "was not at a place where we can elect a woman president." Racial and religious minorities may be especially worried about whether they will be "heard" by the new administration. Parents may need to talk about safety, but also how their family can stay or become engaged in their community.

Zisser said parents and children may be able to work together on an issue they agree about.

She pointed out that while Trump many have said and done many things that some people find disturbing, voters may have chosen him because they think he'll be better for the economy, not because they like what he said about immigrants or women.

Frank Farley, a psychologist who often works with children at Temple University, said parents don't have to say anything — unless their kids ask questions. For older kids, he suggests that this is a good time to talk about how U.S. elections work and why Trump may have won, to try to have an educational discussion.

Farley had some tough advice for parents who are upset now, but didn't vote. "If you did not vote, and clearly a lot of people did not vote, you should apologize to your kids," he said.

Farley, who moved here from Canada, remains optimistic about our system's ability to check abuses of power and poor decisions. The positive message, he said, is that the first female candidate for president almost won. "Be calm," he said. "Say, 'Well, it didn't come out the way we wanted it, but there's another election in four years and we almost got there, had the first woman to be a president. Let's view this as Stage One.'"

The other side of the coin is that this is also a teachable moment for Trump supporters' children. It's a good time for them to say that others have different views and may be feeling hurt now.

Families can talk about "how you manage victory in a polite, helpful, positive way," Quinlan said.

Try to emphasize the things we have in common, she said: "We all still need to be a community that moves forward together."

Zisser said kids learn about how to handle success with board games and athletic contests. It's normal to be pleased, but important to be respectful of those who are disappointed, she said.

She said also suggested that unhappy parents take a break from negative stimulation. "I would really encourage parents," she said, "to turn off the news, turn off social media, and engage in an activity that they enjoyed before the election and that they'll enjoy after the election."