Parents are paying attention to politics these days, and they need to realize that their kids are seeing it too. So, let’s have that conversation
There is no avoiding politics these days. Even for parents who want to steer clear of the debates and discussions, it’s important to admit that kids are aware of what is going on. If they ever watch television or YouTube, they see the commercials, even if they don’t tune in to the news broadcasts or commentary. Whether they are riding the bus or in the back seat of mom’s car, they can see signs along the roads, and teens see info on social media, even though it’s not always reliable.
The truth is that while kids don’t have the ability to vote, they still hear the discussions in the community. They overhear what parents say at home and even what strangers say at the grocery store. And many times, they form opinions based on those visual and auditory messages. About 90% of parents think that their kids are too young to understand politics, according to Very Well Family, but still about 40% of kids ask questions and others might pick things up but not talk about it.
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Why It’s Important to Engage in Conversation
Some parents try to avoid talking about politics with their kids, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t engage with their peers on the playground or other places. So experts on Good Morning America say that the key to making sure that their kids feel comfortable and avoid political tiffs is to sit them down and discuss things at home first.
The point isn’t necessarily to give them your thoughts on the best candidate but to teach them about civil discourse, and how to navigate their interactions with friends in a way that doesn’t get negative. Adults know that sometimes it’s best to avoid the subject or find commonalities, but kids sometimes need some tips, not on the issues as much as on how to navigate the political world around them.
Tips for Kids in Elementary School
While parents may have a favorite news channel, Common Sense Media recommends that parents find a kid-friendly news source to help them explain the concepts to their kids. The analysis on CNN might be too over the top, but Time for Kids or the Scholastic Kids Press Corps are focusing on an audience under age 12, so their articles are more likely to be written in a way that children can understand.
Time for Kids has resources that are organized for teachers or for families to discuss together, so it’s a good site to navigate for parents to get ahold of the language that might make things easier to understand.
Children’s books are also great resources to talk about the importance of voting, how democracy works, and why politics are in the news. One of our favorites is “Duck for President,” which doesn’t get into the issues of today, but it talks about the terms of getting votes on a farm.
In today’s political climate, especially, parents also have to do some explaining of what is going on today. Kids might hear some words being bantered about by politicians that they don’t understand — and there are definitely some times where parents should change the channel, even if the candidates or the pundits are talking about legitimate news that isn’t kid-appropriate.
Other times, parents should point out when kids are witnessing bad behavior like bullying. They need to know that it’s not appropriate for them, even when they are getting an example from a leader. It’s OK for parents to call out bad behavior and talk about how to argue or disagree but be respectful — otherwise, kids are going to behave the way that they see other people do it on TV.
Info for Older Kids & Teens
As kids get older, they can understand more of the complicated nature of politics and elections, and parents can help guide them on that. In fact, according to research posted in Science Daily earlier this year, teens are worried about politics these days, so it’s an important task for a parent to help them understand things and feel more secure.
For middle schoolers, the hate speech and bullying are topics that they are familiar with in their every day lives. Parents can use that as a conversation starter to help kids understand why it’s hurtful, but also they may be able to get them to open up about their personal experiences.
One fun tip from Common Sense Media is to share political cartoons with your older kids to help them see the humor and have some fun with the topics. It can also lead to interesting conversations about free speech, satire, and art.
For high school kids, parents can watch debates and news programs with their kids — it might even be a part of an assignment for school. They can help them research issues and figure out how to check facts.
Finally, kids who are older often get a lot of their information and news on social media. This is a good time to talk about things like how social media can spread misinformation and lead to problems with online bullying and other issues. Social media has its positives and negatives for kids and adults, and using true examples that they are seeing during the election can drive home points that parents want to make in general about life for teens.
Remember, in short order, our kids will be the next voters, the LA Times points out. Help them now to be engaged and informed and learn how to be a good citizen.
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About The Author
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