This presidential election season has been interesting, to say the least. As the primary season rolls on it seems that the candidates have taken to some extreme – perhaps inflammatory and questionable – measures to gain voters. For some of them, they’re no longer talking about policies and planning, or trying to win over the public with their charm or charisma. They’re taking personal digs at each other and sometimes are campaigning on a platform of fear.
As elections happen every four years, there are many school aged children who are just now getting their first glimpse, or maybe just the first glimpse that they’ll remember, of what politics are like. And unfortunately, what they’re learning isn’t always positive. And figuring out how to help children make sense of the language and tone of political leaders’ interactions can be increasingly difficult.
It’s at times like these when parents must have a somewhat adult conversation, about an adult topic, with a young child. It’s important for children to know that politics isn’t about bashing candidates for their looks, their physical makeup, or their anatomy. It’s not about singling out groups of people based on their skin color, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, or any other trait, and declaring them to be unfit Americans.
The Presidential election is dominating the airwaves this year, as it should be – but the messaging from some of the candidates, the salacious bits that make the nightly news, aren’t fit for little ears. But it may be almost impossible to screen the exchanges heard on the nightly news, in school lessons, in the newspaper and social media. Therefore, it seems important, regardless of your political affiliations, that this election season be used as a teaching moment for children. Discuss the election process with them, and perhaps – if they’re old enough and interested – include them in some discussions about various candidates and their parties, and where they stand on key issues (hopefully without being disparaging or negative and allowing them to begin to form their own opinions). It is also important to ask your children first what they think about an event or comment without explaining anything to them first or censoring the exchange outright.
It may even be an interesting exercise to have your older children log on to https://www.isidewith.com/political-quiz and take the quiz to see which politician their ideals line up with. The site asks a series of questions and provides a large array of options (the initial options are “yes,” “no,” or “other stances,” and when you click “other stances” it shows options that are more specific to candidates’ stances), as well as providing you with the ability to rank each issue’s importance. Once you complete it, it will let you know which politicians share the same goals and ideals as you, and will show you where each candidate stacks up on your important issues. You may be surprised with your results!
Whatever your approach, this is a good time to help children understand the benefits of being able to express one’s opinions without denigrating or dismissing the rights, views and stances of others, especially with other people whose views don’t necessarily align with theirs (or yours!)
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