In 2016, Mark Brown, Jr.’s, elementary school held a mock presidential election. The then-six-year-old was elated when the candidate he supported won. But a few weeks later, his candidate lost in the real election. He was devastated, hurt, and confused. How could the person who in his mind was the best person for the job—the person who his school overwhelmingly voted for—lose?

Mark’s mother, Rikesha Fry Brown, soothed his hurt in language he understood: sports.

“I told him that just because you vote doesn’t mean things will go your way—just like when you play ball,” says Fry Brown, dean of the Honors College at Hampton University. “Just because you do your best doesn’t mean you win. But you still have to show up and do your best anyway. And next time you go to bat for your candidate again.”

Elections can be fraught with tension and can bring up confusing questions from children. But the 2020 presidential election seems especially contentious, exposing intense emotions and questionable behavior that children might have trouble understanding. Add to that anxiety from the pandemic and a nation in the grips of a racial reckoning, and this election season can be particularly difficult for parents to navigate.

The best approach? Talk to your children, even when it feels difficult.

“[Talking] helps them understand themselves as a community member and can help facilitate their sense of responsibility to other people in their community,” says Deborah Rivas-Drake, a University of Michigan educator who’s co-author of an ongoing study of civil engagement in a predominantly Latinx community. “You’re planting seeds that will bear fruit later in terms of their understanding of themselves as civic and political actors who have agency.”

Read the full article at National Geographic.