This election season has been incredibly difficult for so many, but the many issues facing most American Muslims can make it feel even more difficult and stressful. Many of us are now feeling relief, a little hopeful, and maybe even excited after a long time because of the results of the election, but also fearful because of the talk and actions of the current leadership and the threats around a smooth transition. What does this mean for our families? How can we keep ourselves, our friends, and children safe and protect those more vulnerable than us?
This toolkit was developed as a resource to help you and your family process the range of emotions and provide you with resources to help you handle residual anxiety, protect your children, and make meaningful decisions for your future.
This toolkit was developed by Madiha Tahseen, PhD and Saneeha Shamshad, BA and was designed by Sarrah AbuLughod, MA.
Process Your Emotions
Take time to acknowledge and process how you are feeling. This will differ for each individual based on your situation so take time to sit with what you are feeling:
Are you feeling anxious and uncertain?
If you feel yourself spiraling out of control, try grounding yourself.
When feeling unsteady, practice breathing exercises. Breathing exercises are a great way to calm your mind, manage stress, and recenter yourself.
Are you feeling angry?
Honor your anger and learn how to move through it.
Ground yourself in understanding why Allah (swt) allows things to happen that we may not understand.
Are you feeling despair and hopelessness?
If you feel hopeless with how things are progressing, try these tips to help yourself.
It is understandable to feel sad but know that doesn’t mean you have weak imān.
Are you feeling afraid?
We can choose to live restrictively through fear, or freely through faith. No matter how difficult life gets, remember that Allah (swt) does not burden us beyond what we can bear (Quran – 2:286).
Are you feeling helpless?
Through good times and difficult times, learn how to rely on Allah (swt), as He is in control of all things.
If you’re feeling helpless, you’re not alone–but there is something you can do about it.
As a Black Muslim American, you may also be worrying about many additional issues, such as the physical safety of your loved ones and continued racial injustices. For a much more detailed and holistic approach to wellness during these times, please refer to the Election Wellness Toolkit, developed by Sapelo Square and Muslim Wellness Foundation.
Once you’ve processed what you’re feeling, what can you do about it? Muslim religious and psychological scholars have addressed anxiety and depression by primarily addressing three areas: ‘Aql (Intellect), Jasad (Body), and Ruh (Spirit).
‘Aql (Intellect) – Reframe your Thinking
Reframe these events as a test from Allah (swt)–and He is only going to hold us to account for our effort and how we handle it
Uncertain political times can make you feel unsure about the future, they may even cause fear and anxiety. Check out these strategies to help you Cope with Socio-Political Stress.
When you’re feeling hopeless, reframe your thoughts
Be aware of catastrophizing and how to shift your thinking if you find yourself doing that
Place your trust in Allah (swt). Take what you don’t have control over and give it to The One who DOES have control over everything
Take a break from the media so that it doesn’t take over your thoughts
If you feel yourself spiraling out of control, try grounding yourself
Remember what you do have control over and focus on that!
Once you reframe your thinking, you are able to act upon that which you do have control over, such as your own body to help you cope and to channel your energy towards positive efforts.
Jasad (Body) – Actions to Help you Cope and build Resilience
Rely on these suggested coping skills that may help you at this moment:
Reach out to loved ones to help you process your thoughts and feelings
Navigate social media use carefully
Limit your media consumption- get the information you need and get off
If you must be online, follow these tips for surviving social media
Pay attention and be attuned to its impact on your well-being
Know how to identify and report hate speech
Uphold the 3 E’s of digital citizenship to increase civility online
It may take weeks or months before there’s clarity with the election because of recounts and legal action being taken. Have an extended post-election plan to carry you through.
Regularly catch up with loved ones so that you’re less focused on the election aftermath
Stay active! Stress impacts your body, so stay busy
Find ways to create joy, and sense of accomplishment and control
Volunteer for a local organization or charity
Perform random acts of kindness
Check in with community elders
Try indoor gardening–an amazing stress reliever!
Plan things to look forward to, even in a pandemic, to cope with uncertainty
Keep on Marching! Social Justice is the spirit of Islam!
If you choose to join protests, know your rights when it comes to dealing with law enforcement
With the added obstacle of a pandemic, be sure to stay safe and keep yourself and those around you healthy while exercising your right to protest
Stay informed and ready to act, if you can. Channel your nervous energy into positivity
Refer to this guide about how various groups have prepared for what we are facing during this contested election. Learn how to connect with others, and organize friends and family for election outcomes
If we are facing the possibility of a coup or undemocratic power grab, here are 10 things you need to know and act on
Refer to Part 3 of this guide for creating an election protection group in your community and start taking action in the face of contested results
Ruh (Spirit) – Renew your Spiritual Connection
“Holding fast to the rope of Allah (swt)” is key during times like these and looking to the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) can help ease some of the different emotions you might be feeling. Here are some reminders to help you out:
Remember that Allah (swt) is in full control over everything. This is a cornerstone of our faith.
We can choose to live restrictively through fear, or freely through faith. No matter how difficult life gets, we must remember that Allah (swt) does not burden us beyond what we can bear (2:286.)
Abu al-‘Abbas ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas (R) reports: “One day I was riding behind the Prophet, peace, and blessings be upon him, when he said, ‘Young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of Allah, and He will take care of you. Be mindful of Him, and you shall find Him at your side. If you ask, ask of Allah. If you need help, seek it from Allah.”
Even if you don’t understand, remember that Allah (swt) in His infinite knowledge and mercy has all factors under consideration and is “the best of planners.”
“And [remember, O Muhammad], when those who disbelieved plotted against you to restrain you or kill you or evict you [from Makkah]. But they plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners.” – Qur’an 8:30
Put your trust in Allah (swt). Think of all the times in your own past when you initially thought something was awful, but then it turned out okay in the long run.
“Perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you, and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” – Qur’an 2:216
Shaitan breeds fear. He wants us to be afraid of the people around us (our neighbors, kids at school). Allah (swt) asks us and reminds us to not be afraid of anything but Him.
“It is only the Evil One that suggests to you the fear of his followers: Be not afraid of them, but fear Me, if you have Faith.” – Qur’an 3:175
Look to the Quran for comfort: The Quran contains many reminders that can help us through tough times. Use this app to retrieve ayahs related to how you are feeling.
Remember, we are doing everything for the pleasure of Allah (swt) He is in full control and is the best of planners. We must hold fast to our principles and values, and continue the work that we need to be doing to improve our nation.
“O you who believe, persevere and endure and remain stationed and protect yourselves with Allah (swt) that you may be successful.” – Qur’an 3:200
As a parent, what else can you do to support your children and teens?
Listen to Them
Before jumping into troubleshooting mode or trying to solve their concerns, listen to them. You do not want to elevate your child’s anxiety by responding to a different concern than the one they are expressing. If you have multiple children at different developmental stages, it might be good to talk at the youngest’s level as a family and then speak individually with the older children.
If you believe your children are watching and listening to the news around the current political climate, begin by asking questions to see what they understand and their feelings around current realities. This will help you know how to approach these conversations. Studies show that the best approach towards having conversations around our current political climate is to be proactive and direct.
One of the more difficult parts of dealing with stressful situations is explaining to children what is happening. It is never easy to share or learn about upsetting news, but the best way to handle stressful situations is by being prepared for having these conversations.
Listening effectively builds a strong bond of trust with your child. Listening, rather than advising, lets your child know that you are there for him or her.
Be aware of your child’s nonverbal communication and most importantly be aware of your own. Try not to react negatively to what they say which discourages them from approaching you in the future.
Help them name their emotions (angry, disappointed, terrified, disgust, scared, etc.)
Don’t minimize their concerns and fears, allow them to express their emotions and concerns. For example, “It sounds like you are feeling (state the emotion). I can understand that or I feel that way as well.”
If your child is expressing physical symptoms, consider that they may be expressing their anxiety in a somatic manner and need a space to process their emotions.
Once they feel they have been heard, then they can begin to heal through faith, feeling secure in their parent’s reaction, and their own action.
Before talking with your child, consider the message–What values and principles can you teach them through this? Make sure to match your response to your child’s level of development.
How we talk and reassure them can make a difference.
Use this as an opportunity to show them how to persevere in the face of uncertainty. Building resilience begins with strengthening our relationship with our children. As parents, our relationship with them can help them navigate the waiting game. Be present, be involved, and connect with your child on a regular basis. Help facilitate their growth through their everyday experiences.
As parents, we need to avoid catastrophizing (believing that something is far worse than it actually is), and maintain a balanced perspective.
This is not the first or last time in history that challenging events have taken place. Humanity marches on.
Focus on the positive news that came out from last night’s election.
It is possible that despite your reassurance, your child might not want to talk about their concerns. That is okay. If they are unable to or refuse to open up to you, suggest other adults who can help them. Also consider teen helplines such as Stones to Bridges, Amala Hopeline, or Naseeha.
Be Aware of Increased Cyberbullying
There is a chance that cyberbullying and hate may increase as certain groups may be emboldened by the election results.
Read up on what cyberbullying looks like and what to do if it happens to your child/teen
Know how to identify and report hate speech
Know how to protect them online
Teach them how to navigate social media use carefully
Limit their media consumption
Pay attention and be attuned to its impact on their well-being
Help children learn how to recognize and reject hate on social media
Teach them to increase civility by upholding the 3 E’s of digital citizenship
Refer to The FYI’s Digital Parenting Toolkit for more information.
There is Work to be Done – Channel the Energy
Children who feel helpless about a situation can end up feeling cynical and angry. However, when they feel there is something, anything, they can do to make a difference, they feel empowered. Brainstorm the different situations they are worried about and identify different ways they can choose to react. Rehearse until your child is comfortable.
Be your child’s role model. Show them through your actions–educate them through resources available in the community and online. Focus on teaching them how to:
Disagree in a civil and cordial fashion. Teach them the importance of using critical thinking and engaging in fact-based debates.
Be actively engaged and responsible members of our society. Educate your child about their rights as American citizens, the history of social change and movement, and help them find opportunities to make an impact.
Uphold an anti-racist perspective. Bigotry should not be tolerated by anyone, even within our own families. A number of organizations are working hard to protect the American Muslim community in different ways. If hate incidents occur, please contact CAIR, MLFA, Department Of Justice Civil Rights Division, Muslim Advocates, Muslim Justice League, or the ACLU and they can help guide you through the process. The more we report and document, the more we can help our nation.
Organize, collaborate, and form alliances–starting with their family, friends, schools, and then at the community level.
Speak up for themselves, take action, and find allies and support with peers and other adults.
Advocate for Your Child at School
Consider being proactive by advocating for your child at school. Express your possible concerns for bullying or a hostile school environment and ask what your child’s school is doing to prevent this from occurring. The following resources may help guide that discussion and can be shared with your child’s school:
The National Association of School Psychologists Guidance for Ensuring Student Well-Being in the Context of the 2020 Election for educators and other adults supporting children and youth.
The State Of American Muslim Youth report: Share this report to help teachers and administrators learn what problems are facing Muslim youth in America.
Helping Educators and Counselors Prevent Bullying of and Discrimination Against our Nation’s Muslim Youth: Share this article about the bullying of Muslims to help educators learn more about the prevalence and types of bullying that American Muslim youth are facing.
Strategies for Educators, Counselors, and Community members To build protective factors for America’s Muslim Youth: Share this webinar with the school administrators to help them learn how to better support your child.
Check out these additional resources related to bullying prevention for Muslim children.
Keeping the Faith – Spiritual Reminders
Research shows that children whose parents transmit information, values and perspectives about their cultural and religious heritage, which includes having a discussion about obstacles they may face because of the group they belong to, are less negatively affected by discrimination. As parents, we need to model strength in identity and faith. Be proud of your faith identity and convey this message to your children. Have developmentally appropriate discussions about discrimination. For younger children, this may include messages of pride while for older children the discussion may also include talk about the possible discrimination they face in school and greater society.
Refer to the section on the Ruh (Spirit) above for additional information about how to strengthen and rely on your connection to Allah (swt) during these times.
Remember, we are doing everything for the pleasure of Allah (swt). He is in full control and is the best of planners. We are being tested to see how we will react. We must hold fast to our principles and values, and continue the work that we need to be doing to improve our nation.
Contributors to a previous version of this toolkit included: Wahida Abaza, MD; Sarrah AbuLughod, MA; Sameera Ahmed, Ph.D.; Sawssan Ahmed, Ph.D.; Alaa Mohammad, BA; Kameelah Rashad, M.Ed, MRPYC; Nadeem Siddiqi, Ph.D.; and Eram Uddin, MA.
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