It’s impossible to deny that our kids are witnessing quite a bit of turmoil relative to the political landscape in our country today. While it might be at school, at a friend’s house, on the nightly news or social media, young children are concerned about what they see and hear. Some things they see or hear may even be upsetting or confusing to them.
What to do? How do parents navigate this touchy area? Is it best to talk about it, wait until your child brings up the topic, or ignore it altogether? Most important, how to we teach our children to make their own independent decisions without leaning the way they feel pressured?
First, at what age should such a potentially emotional topic be surfaced? Generally speaking, young school aged children are ready to have short discussions around these tough issues. However, since we don’t want to bog them down with too much information to the degree that it causes distress, here are five tips that might be helpful.
1. Listen to both sides of arguments. This is good skill for kids to develop, it will serve them well in relationships, at work, and in their community.
2. Teach kids not to label people who disagree as “stupid”, “lame” or “un-American”. Once kids learn that its okay to name call when others disagree they will use it as their default which will derail collaborative conversations that otherwise might have been engaging and valuable.
3. Show your children how to gather information to help them think for themselves and come to decisions. A child psychiatrist once told me the most important things we teach kids is “learn to think, think to learn”. We adults could probably use a refresher in this idea at times!
4. It’s okay to feel emotional. This country was founded on passionate argument, discussion and debate. Allow your kids to emote but teach them how to measure when it’s time to pull back and modulate their expression of feelings. Easier said than done!
5. Talk to kids about why we vote. To them, since they can’t participate yet, it probably seems like a mysterious event in which adults participate. Familiarize them with the process, the reason we do it, and why it’s so very important to our freedom.
Hope these tips win your vote!