As Election Day approaches, Dr. Scott Poland answers questions for families on how to handle anxiety around politics.

How is election stress affecting not only parents and caregivers, but children?

There is considerable stress right now for parents and caregivers due to the pandemic, racial strife, and a contentious election. The result is many parents and caregivers are feeling overwhelmed and suffering from what we might term a low grade depression. One of the most significant factors for overall well-being is simply getting the proper amount of rest but that has been difficult in these recent months. I have responded to many traumatic situations that have affected children and one of the things that I think is very important is for children to be given permission for their own range of emotions and have opportunities to express those emotions if they wish through talking, writing, music, artwork or projects.

Children, especially younger ones take their cue from adults to see how upset to be about something. My thoughts are that younger children should generally not be included in lots of discussions about the election unless they asked to be. However, older students are likely to be very interested in understanding the election process and it may even be a part of their school assignments, for example, in a government class.

How can we approach political issues and other complex topics with our younger children?

I believe strongly with young children, we should provide opportunities for them to share their thoughts with us and it is often done the best when there is a shared activity such as playing a sport or baking a cake. The questions they ask should be answered developmentally in the way they understand. Adults are cautioned not to provide more information than the child is asking for at this particular time. Young children may have witnessed some of the election ads on television that have very strong messages that might be worrisome to them. In general it would be best for younger children not to view those election ads as many of them are filled with incorrect information provided in an overly dramatic manner.

One of the most significant factors to a child’s well-being is the modeling of coping and optimism from their parents and feeling like whatever is happening they are secure with their parents. This means that if we have strong feelings, reactions and worries related to the election we should share those with other adults in our life not with younger children. They should be assured that they will be cared for and safe at all times.

What is your advice for families that are grappling with political differences among friends and family?

There are very diverse opinions in families about the presidential election in particular. It is almost as if family members are existing in a different universe with regards to the information they receive and their belief about which candidate should be our president. I think all of us have a good sense of who we can have a reasonable, but spirited, discussion about politics with and what family members we cannot. If there are family members we cannot have a civil political conversation with then, it’s really as simple as, they’re in our family, and we love them, but do not agree with their political views and politics are simply not a subject we will be discussing with them.

What are some ways to help children deal with stress during these uncertain times?

All of us including children need self-care plans at this difficult time. Even small children are encouraged to draw out a self-care plan with pictures of themselves getting proper rest, eating healthy foods, getting exercise and doing nice things for others. One of the things that helps all of us deal with stress during difficult times is simply being that kind and compassionate person who does something nice for others. We should be grateful and acknowledge all the positive things that are going on in our life and not only focus on the stressors.

How can we prepare our kids for the results of the election?

It is not going to be helpful for us to spend valuable time with our families if we are moaning and complaining about the election results. The message to our children should be we are the United States of America and although many people appear to be far apart right now politically – America has always come together as a country. This is the time for parents and children to find those shared activities that they truly enjoy together and for parents to let children know they are cherished, loved and will be cared for and their parents will keep their world secure.

About the Author:

Dr. Scott Poland is a Licensed Psychologist, Nationally Certified School Psychologist, Professor at the College of Psychology and the Director of the Suicide and Violence Prevention Office at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Dr. Scott Poland is also the Past President of the National Association of School Psychologists and a part of the Safe and Sound Speakers Bureau. 

To book Dr. Scott Poland for a training, workshop, or keynote presentation, click here


Hard to believe that after planning, then postponing (#COVID2020!), then taking it virtual, our 2020 National Summit on School Safety finally happened! And what a whirlwind it was with three days of inspiring stories, expert-led presentations, panel discussions, peer-to-peer chats, and the FBI film premier of In the Aftermath!

And just like that, we’re done.

Well, not quite…

Our “Summit On Demand” program is taking off, providing access to Summit content, resources, and more for anyone who couldn’t join—or wants more time to take it all in.

We are deeply grateful to the storytellers, survivors, national-level experts, practitioners, and partners who made this virtual event possible in spite of the pandemic, and at a time when our national school safety community is most in need. The turnout and the feedback from attendees (all 956!) has been incredible.

We are grateful to all of you for joining us and for the work you do to ensure safe and sound schools. It is our honor to share this mission and the legacy of our daughters with each of you!

Check out the highlights or join us via Summit On Demand to support the mission of Safe and Sound Schools!

Michele Gay & Alissa Parker
Co-founders of Safe and Sound Schools


This blog is part of our return to learn blog series. For part 1, focusing on the hybrid learning model, click here.

Today’s guest is Brad Welles, Deputy Superintendent of Grain Valley Schools, who will discuss his school community’s experience of returning to school full time.

Q: What precautions are being taken to minimize the risk of COVID-19 within the classroom and during arrival, dismissal, and transitional periods? Has it been working, and what adjustments have you had to make? (e.g. temperature checks, sanitization, disinfection, limited shared surfaces, physical distancing, mask-use, physical barriers)

A: In our elementary schools, everyone is required to wear a cloth mask. Families and staff are expected to self-monitor their wellness and stay home from school when ill. With classes of 20-25 students, social distancing is not feasible, so there are other steps being taken such as assigned seating in the classroom and during lunch. During the school day, students wash their hands at scheduled times at least six times per day. High touch surfaces are disinfected throughout the day and classroom doors are propped open to limit touching.

These new systems are proving effective primarily because compliance has been thorough. However, due to the loss in state revenue during the spring closure, we have a budget shortfall at a time when expenses have increased.

Q: How have you changed the way you manage leisure and extracurricular activities?

A: Our sports teams are required to wear cloth masks when not directly engaged in vigorous activity. Outdoor sporting events are limited to 100 spectators. To comply with this county order at football games, each home team participant is issued two spectator tickets. These events are not otherwise open to the public. There are no student sections.   

Q: With students coming back to school after being quarantined, what struggles have you been seeing most in your students? How have you been providing mental health support to meet the needs of those students? Is it working?

A: We have not had students miss school due to quarantine yet, but in general we are concerned about the mental health needs of our students after being away from school for six months. Our schools are sending surveys to families at this time with the offer of services and support, mostly material items, in the hopes our families begin to self-report new needs. All staff are on alert to observe subtle behaviors in students that could signal the need for dialog.

In the first days of school there have not been widespread concerns or referrals for mental health services, but we anticipate a record number of counseling, nurse, and therapy referrals this year.

Q: How are the needs of students with special needs and considerations being addressed as you reopen school? How have you had to rethink service delivery for students (e.g. speech therapy with masks on, OT, PT and other one-to-one services)? Have there been challenges you didn’t anticipate?

A: One of the greatest fears of making changes to our school delivery model is the potential impact on students with special needs. Students with IEPs for special education services are also having a Distance Learning Plan (Form G) added to their IEP, to account for how that child’s services will be handled during a short or long-term closure.

Children with the most significant needs in grades 6 and above are participating in in-person learning for four days each week. Students with special needs whose families chose full-time virtual have the option for occupational therapy services and physical therapy services in person.

Some therapy services can be modified based on the needs of the child. We allow face shields in place of cloth masks for therapy when lip reading or otherwise watching the mouth is essential.

Our teachers and leaders who work directly with students with special needs and their families are working very hard to attend to each child’s IEP plans this year. Adapting all these Individualized Education Program plans has probably been one of the biggest challenges associated with changing the delivery model for all students.