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Experts weigh in: How to talk to your kids about the election results

After a polarized and vitriolic campaign year, children might be feeling fearful and confused about what happens now. Here's how you can talk to them.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

It's the morning after Election Day, Donald Trump is the U.S. president-elect, and as President Obama promised, the sun has indeed risen.

But in the wake of many controversial and vitriolic soundbites from the campaigns over the past year, parents all over social media are genuinely asking, "What do I say to my kids this morning?"

In the wee hours after the results became clear, CNN commentator Van Jones said, "I want every parent at home who's up right now trying to figure out how we're going to get through this, where's the grace going to come from? Where is the understanding, where is the empathy going to come from?

"It's going to have to come from ordinary people," he said.

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TODAY Tastemaker and child development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa, herself a mother of four, told TODAY Parents the way to begin is to tell your children how you feel.

"It's healthy to, in an age-appropriate and gentle way, let your children know how you are affected by this news," she said.

Dr. Gilboa gave TODAY Parents a plan for how to address the election with children this morning, particularly if parents are disappointed themselves:

1. Teach them about how government works. "We have a system of checks and balances so that not even the president can effect big change alone," she said.

2. Look for your values. "Go with them to read about the love and acceptance and support that people are already showing.”

3. Spread your own message of love. "Get involved in telling everyone you know why your family stands strong in its values of inclusion," said Gilboa. "Get your kids involved in that work."

RELATED: Donald Trump's campaign chief: Calls from Obama, Clinton were 'warm' and 'thorough'

4. Don't lie. "You can only tell your child that everything is going to be OK if you believe that may be true," said Gilboa.

5. Remind girls who were excited at the prospect of a first female president that the fight is not over. Gilboa said to remind girls that people fought from 1848 until 1920 to get women the right to vote in this country, so this delay is just that: a delay, not an end.

Parents can say, "I wish that we already had a woman president, but we are not done fighting to have that happen. Let's think about what we can do to make it happen as soon as possible."

6. Unless you really are moving to Canada, cut out the jokes. Gilboa said you can tell your child that you understand why people are saying they are moving to Canada, but make it clear you won't joke about it, and for a good reason: "I'm not giving up on our country!"

7. If kids are worried they or their friends will now be deported, be honest but optimistic. You can tell nervous children that, though no one knows what will happen for sure, many people believe sending immigrants away would be the wrong thing to do, and remind them they can use the power of their voice to protect others.

"In fear for others, we have to pay attention and speak up. In fear for ourselves, we have to do the same. And be willing to ask all the good people we know to do the same," said Dr. Gilboa.

No matter how upset parents might be today about election results, this can be a moment to model resilience for their children, Gilboa said.

"Tell them that you're proud that they're grappling with these issues. Whatever answers you don't have right now, you'll find them together."