In first grade, we held a mock election: Clinton VS Bush. I voted for Bush because I thought he was better looking.
In 1992, there wasn’t quite as much news coverage. No CNN. No endless social media stream of consciousness. Kids were kind of kept in the dark about these things. Hence why a six-year-old was willing to vote based on looks.
Today’s kids are WAY more informed. They are picking sides, and taunting their “opponents” on the playground.
So how do we talk to kids about the 2016 election?
Yes, as adults, we might have very strong views on the candidates. We might even deeply dislike one or the other.
That’s perfectly fine.
But your child is listening. Chances are great that whatever you say will be repeated on the playground tomorrow. And it will be in the same exact tone and with the same words that you used.
So think before you rant, please!
Keep it Light
With the news media and social media flooding us with info, things can feel pretty heavy. Especially for children.
Hearing these things repeated over and over can cause worry and fear. Kids may start to feel hopeless and helpless about the country and about themselves.
As much as you can, try to limit your child’s exposure to negative articles, videos and memes.
Be Age Appropriate
The younger the child, the less you say.
For elementary age students, stick to the basics. There is an election for president. This is who is running. These are the rules.
By middle school, you can start to invite children to join the partisan discussions. Explain what you and/or your spouse believe and why. When you talk about the “other” party, keep it light and not accusatory. Simply say: I don’t agree with their direction, but it supports X, Y, Z.
In high school, children are approaching voting age and will be starting to form their own political identity. Whether your child agrees with you or not, you need to respect their views. Polite disagreement is fine, but avoid battles and insults. Even after the election is over, you will still be a family!
If your child is interested, you could let him or her get involved with a political campaign. It doesn’t have to be national. There is plenty of politics in even the smallest of towns.
You and your child could work to advocate for the local schools, parks and libraries. Follow your child’s lead, within reason. If it starts getting ugly, pull out immediately.
So what do you say instead?
- Just the facts jack: Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton are both running for president. This is a very important job.
- About the dialogue: Each candidate will be sharing their views. Some of them will be true, and some will be less than true. Some things will sound mean.
- About your pick: Who I vote for is private and personal. I will look at both candidates and what they are promising. Based on what I see and read, I will make a choice.
- About the outcome: No matter who wins, we need to be respectful. The new president might not have been who I wanted, but it is who was chosen by most the American people. If we feel that things aren’t going well, we can use other ways to try to change things.
How will you be talking about the election this year? Leave your ideas in the comments!