[OPINION] After Election, Let Kids Be Kids

Many “06880” readers reacted viscerally on Sunday to Drew Coyne’s “06880” story. The beloved and talented Staples High School social studies teacher described his reaction to last week’s presidential election, adding insights into what it meant for teenagers in his classroom.

Jaime Bairaktaris

Jaime Bairaktaris

Among those reacting to Drew’s reaction was Jaime Bairaktaris. The community-minded 2016 Staples grad has been highlighted here before. Among other things, he was an Earthplace volunteer and EMT. Last spring he traveled to Italy to work with youngsters from a disadvantaged Naples neighborhood.

Now he’s a Sacred Heart University freshman. He’s still a Westport EMT, still works at Earthplace, and is also an EMT for Easton (working the midnight to 6 a.m. shift).

And Jaime helps supervise elementary school students during lunch in a nearby town. He passes along these insights into today’s kids, a few days after one of the most polarizing elections in American history.

  • Trump’s gonna build a huge wall and keep all the bad guys out!
  • Clinton lies too much. I don’t trust her. She killed too many people!
  • Trump’s gonna kick all of the immigrants out. Where will they go?
  • She’s kind of an old lady.
  • He looks like an angry orange.
  • Mr. B, you CAN’T vote for them. Promise me you won’t!

It’s confusing to hear these things come out of tiny mouths, on the playground or between bites of pizza.

I broke up verbal arguments between students. They climbed over tables or stood on their toes, trying to subdue their opponent.

But the aftermath does the real damage. When the argument is over students are left angry, anxious and frightened. Nothing upset me more than a crying child. One was legitimately fearful they would have to leave the country. Another cried because they could not understand why their classmate did not see what they saw in a candidate.

It’s eerily similar to what some adults feel now. But these are children.


The 2016 election was one of the most polarizing in history.

I know that children should have some exposure to the election process. In today’s world, we have no choice. But when they recite Fox or CNN sound bites, it’s time to stop and let them be kids.

Parents need to teach the process not as if 2 things are up against each other, but rather 2 people.

Kids understand that being mean to other people is wrong. But when a news outlet — or parent — bashes a candidate, a child becomes confused. After a while though, that bashing becomes normal and okay. After all, Mom, Dad or the TV did it.

A child can’t distinguish between a candidate on television or a book buddy in class. That’s where problems start.

I’ve seen what overexposure to “adult topics” can do to a child. I have not found anything good about it yet.

It’s our job to lead by example, be kind to all others, and personify anyone you speak about.

He is a father, a husband, a son. She is a mother, a wife, a daughter. Start there, and build up when talking about someone.

Just let kids be kids.

8 responses to “[OPINION] After Election, Let Kids Be Kids

  1. I think this was an excellent piece and speaks to the civility that should be required in all discourse. That is particularly necessary when we are encouraging young people to understand the importance of substantive issues.

  2. In sports, upsets can be a very healthy thing, probably the best learning experience kids can get. Life is full of surprises and disappointments, and no one on the planet will not experience both. Good to speak through other’s eyes and perspectives.

  3. You are obviously wise beyond your years and act a lot more mature than some of the others who have commented on the recent election, myself included.

  4. I think this a great piece of writing and I hope teaching. Jaime is an extraordinary young man.

    I observe that folks on all sides simply don’t listen anymore. Many feel they have to raise their voice, use caps in texts, and employ vitriol to get their point across. It simply doesn’t work. Let’s listen and try to get some good out of our “opponents” position. It’s there if you look.

  5. Michael Calise

    You have really brought it home! Good for you, and your young charges are very fortunate

  6. Sharon Paulsen

    Uplifting article, and I’m impressed by this college freshman! So young still, but very much aware, beyond his years, to be sure.

    Great comments by everyone here too … it’s nice to read a post like this!

    I was very sad, and felt a heavy remorse this morning, regarding our country, our planet, and the perplexing mindset of the darkest parts of humanity.

    I worked myself through it in order to “function”, LOL, as one does, but reading this adds to the positive attitude I’d much prefer to have!

  7. I want to know when Jaime will be on the ballot!

  8. i love it an orange and a liar my sentiments exactly