Turning Political Talks into Productive Parenting Moments
Is anyone else out there a little bit worried about how their children are going to view the whole genre of “politics” given the climate of this election? How do you think parents in the mid 1800s talked about politics to their kids?
“Actually I think that Abraham Lincoln guy is a right wing nut- I don’t trust him. And his tophat is just ridiculous!”
…Somehow, I just can’t picture it. But I am worried that my kids aren’t quite sure whether or not to take politicians seriously anymore, after seeing the pinnacle of absurdity this year—where the myriad of name-calling and personal distractions have taken precedence over content and real issues. I think we need to talk to our kids about it and make sure their perspective is appropriately framed.
How do we do this? How can we do it well?
One solid way to start is by talking about voting and the election process itself.
• Make sure your kids know who can vote and why they should.
• Let them know the requirements to be President of our Nation, like age and citizenship.
• Consider letting them “try out the system” by voting on a few family issues- like what board game to play or which restaurant to go to on Friday night. Showing kids how voting works, letting them have some input into decisions, and listening to their rationale for why they support someone or something validates their opinion and encourages respectful conversation.
Which brings me to (perhaps) my most important point.
Present your views as your own and encourage kids to talk about their own as well. This means sticking to the issues, being positive and NOT “trash talking” candidates you do not support. The parallels to real life are many on this one…
It’s really a perfect opportunity to talk about honesty, accepting outcomes graciously even if you don’t like them, “disagreeing appropriately,” and bullying behavior. You can be a good role model for your kids, and highlight in a non-threatening way (i.e. when THEY are not in trouble) the importance of making good choices. Provide some balanced perspective so that your kids see that while it’s fine to pick a position on an issue, it’s important to respect and understand BOTH sides to be educated about the topic as a whole.
There’s a lot of media out there giving off the vibe that the country is going to hell in a handbasket, and I think we need to be reassuring to kids who may actually be frightened that the apocalypse might really occur on November 8. Talking about some of the down ballot elections and more of the elements that go into our great democracy OTHER than the presidential election can help illustrate the fact that our government has many checks and balances to ensure that one person doesn’t have all the power. Take this opportunity to give a little history lesson at home. It’s probably fair to point out that throughout our country’s history, regardless of who wins the election, in the end we’ve wound up ok, largely due to lots of input from many people into shaping our direction.
Maybe it all just boils down to what we learned in kindergarten: Listen. Be kind. Share.
There might be a candidate or two (or twenty) out there who could use a firm reminder about this. In any case, let’s all do our part in showing kids the right way to view this important part of our government process and the right way to act towards one another. Children are, after all, our future.