As the 2020 presidential election fast approaches, many parents are considering how best to address the election and our current political climate with their children. In an already uncertain and challenging time for many families (i.e., adjusting to new styles of schooling and socially distant interactions, to name just two), the election is yet another major national event which will impact the lives of countless families, and also lead to many questions from our children. It is important to open the door to direct, honest, and values-oriented conversations to clearly communicate how your family will navigate the 2020 election and its subsequent outcomes.
Here are a few approaches which will help make these conversations more productive and informative for your family regardless of the candidate you support:
Discuss your values. Discuss with your children what values are important to your family and how those values can translate into political support. It is important to explain to your children how the political process works in a democracy and how in the United States we elect leaders and representatives who reflect the values we support. Discuss how your family values represent what is important to you, what motivates your family, and what guides your family’s behavior.
- “What do you care about?”
- “What would a good politician care about in your mind?’
Inspire critical reasoning and provide facts. Now more than ever, it is important to teach our children to analyze the media they consume and information they may hear from various sources including peers, schoolteachers, news, and through their social media. Explain to children how and why it’s important to look through multiple trusted news sources to learn new information. Set aside time as a family to examine various credible news sources together and learn about issues and facts.
Ask questions like:
- “Who said or wrote that?”
- “Why do you think they said or wrote that?”
- “Whose views are represented with that statement?”
- “Whose views are missing?”
- “Is there a different way of thinking about that?”
These are just a few conversation starters which open the dialogue to help get your children more engaged, knowledgeable and secure about the election and things they might see or hear.
Focus on issues, not people. Showing children that you’re voting on the issues, not just the person, helps them understand that elections are about what matters most to you, not, for example, who you see on TV the most. Instead of saying to your children “that candidate is bad!”, say “that candidate doesn’t align with our values – they don’t put enough emphasis on ___________, which is very important to our family.”
Encourage respectful disagreement. Our political climate is more polarized than ever, but it is important to communicate to your children that political discourse should be respectful, especially when discussing the election as a family or with friends. Elections are a great opportunity to teach children that while you can disagree with someone, you should still respect their right to have their own opinion. Remind your children that listening respectfully to someone and asking questions isn’t the same as agreeing with someone, and we can disagree with someone and still treat that person with kindness. Help your kids understand and respect that people can have different values and viewpoints which are equally important and help us learn about diverse perspectives.
Monitor how you react to news. Ultimately, children pick up on cues from adults, and parents/caregivers must model appropriate reactions to the events related to the election. If you disagree with what a politician is saying on TV, instead of yelling at the TV, for example; model for your children how to calmly react to any concerning events and topics you come across.
Age Appropriate News Sources for Children:
- Time for Kids (for children 8+)
- Scholastic Kids Press Core (for children 10+)
- News for Kids.net (for children 8+)
- The Learning Network (for children 12+)
Books for Children:
- Bad kittie for President
- Amelia Bedelia’s first vote
- Grace for President
- Otto runs for President