Talking to our kids about politics has never felt as tricky as it has during the past couple of years. With political divisiveness at an all-time high, it can be hard to walk that fine line between raising kids who are aware of what’s happening in the world around them without thrusting our own views onto them before they’re ready.
Before you go on either a political tirade or a victory lap, remember that our kids are absorbing our every word.
Don’t be a sore winner or a sore loser
Teach them grace in politics the same way we teach them to be gracious winners and losers when they play a board game or a team sport.
Yes, the stakes feel really high right now in politics. And yes, who we choose to lead our country is more important than a 3-2 loss on the primary school soccer field. But how we model grace in things with big implications will have an impact on them and will trickle down to other areas.
(Sure, you may not feel gracious right now, but you can fake it ‘til you make it.)
Steer clear of the overly negative
Emotions can be high where politics are involved, and our kids have a way of absorbing ours. When absolutisms — the always and the nevers — start creeping into our vocabulary, our kids take notice. They won’t simply mirror our political views as they grow older; they’re likely to mirror our attitudes about politics, too.
Find the good. That can be how pleased you are that a certain candidate was elected, or that a local issue that is important to you was passed — or even just that it made you happy to see so many people volunteering at the polling place. Kids need a bright side, and you can find one for them.
Avoid causing fear or hopelessness
Kids are really good at worrying, and they’re even better at internalising that worry. But we can help them see the bigger picture: Even if our country is not being led by people of our choosing, there is still so much good we can do as individuals. We can advocate, we can vote and then we can channel our remaining political frustration into meeting the needs of our own community.
One parent in the Lifehacker parenting Facebook Group talks to her son about it this way: “Sometimes we disagree, but we share our feelings and hope that the leaders we choose hear us and are not hurtful.”
Jenn continues, “No matter who our leaders are, we still have to do our best to be kind and take care of our friends and strangers who are sad or hurting.”
Don’t forget to ask them what they think
One of the best ways to teach our kids that their opinion matters is by asking their opinion. They’re often absorbing and understanding issues better than we expect them to, and asking what they think is a good way to get them thinking critically and to start to find their own political voice at their own pace.
Carissa from the Facebook group says she does this: “We discuss good leadership and emphasise kindness, compassion and making hard decisions when something is right but unpopular. I also ask them how they would solve a (certain) problem.”