As I am writing this, we are less than a week away from Election Day, and unless you have been living under a rock for the past year, you are probably well aware of the shitastic spectacle our 2016 presidential election has become. Typically, I am not one to talk politics on social media or my blog because I don’t want to alienate anyone, and I know how quickly it can turn ugly. But as I read the headlines, scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, watch the election coverage on television, or simply listen to a conversation, I wonder how all of this will affect my children.

I know that every moment of every day they are just taking it all in. They see the things we see; they watch our reactions and our behavior. They listen to our conversations. I think about the messages my kids are receiving as they observe all of us. I question what they may be hearing at school or from their friends. And regardless of how things turn out, I want them to learn something from this historic election. I want them to leave this political season with lessons they can use for the rest of their lives. So…

Dear Children,

Believe in something. Have convictions. Speak your mind, and speak it loud and proud. It is important to know your values and your beliefs as you navigate this world. As the saying goes, “Stand for something, or you will fall for anything.” But it is just as important to listen to others. Actively seek people with points of view that are different from your own. Be respectful of the opinions of others, and be open to growing and changing. Never demean, insult or bully someone based on their beliefs.

When you meet someone with beliefs which are contradictory to your own, you should see an opportunity. Instead of writing them off as a bad person, learn from them. Learn their history and their experience. It probably won’t change your belief, but it will make you a more sympathetic and understanding person.

Real men do not objectify women. A real man will respect women in public, in private, and even when there are no women around. Do not excuse disrespectful behavior as “boy’s talk” or “locker room talk.” It is NEVER okay for someone to touch you without permission, to talk about you disrespectfully, or to make you feel less than human. No matter how rich or powerful they may be. Each one of you is beautiful and worthy of love and respect. NEVER doubt your value.

You are capable of anything. You can do and be anything you want to be. I am happy that you have the opportunity to grow up in an America where this feels true. We are just coming to the end of 8 years with our first black president, and we are now looking at the very real possibility of our first woman president. I want you, especially you girls, to know how HUGE this is. Less than 100 years ago, we could not even vote. And I want you, my son, to grow up in a world where having a woman in charge is not unusual or in some way bad, it just is.

VOTE! Many people have died fighting for the right to vote in this country. Do not take it for granted. Respect that right by educating yourself on the candidates and the issues, and vote your conscience. Never pass up an opportunity to make your voice heard. You matter. This system may not be perfect, but you cannot change things for the better if you choose to do nothing.

We are more alike than we are different. Regardless of what you see on the news or on social media, most of us are good people just trying to do the best for ourselves and our families. We may come from different backgrounds or hold different beliefs, but ultimately our goals are the same. Remember this always. Learn to compromise and work together, and you can change the world. Because no matter what happens on Election Day, we are what makes this country great.

Love Always,