As a parent, talking to kids about politics can often feel like tricky waters to navigate. In our discomfort, it may seem easiest to avoid it altogether and pretend our kids are unaware of what is taking place in the world around them.
But, discussing politics with your child can help address their anxiety, as well as assist the development of their own viewpoint and further instill an understanding of family values.
Dr. Krista Caldwell, a pediatric psychologist in our Lois and John Orr Family Behavioral Health Center, provides tips for how parents can foster these conversations and help their children develop their own political voice.
Ask kids what they know
- A great way to broach the subject is simply to ask your child what they have heard and if they have any concerns. Your child is bound to hear opinions from various individuals close to them.
- It’s a great way to learn more about what they are thinking and feeling in reaction to news they have heard. This then presents the opportunity for you to correct any misunderstandings, address their fears and encourage a healthy discussion on various issues.
Develop informed voters
- Be sure to educate your child on the impact social media and other media outlets have on political information. Helping kids understand the biases that exist within these platforms is important in helping your child decipher the truth. For older kids, it also can help them identify trusted sources for news information.
- While watching a news show, it’s a great time to educate your child on why you selected the news outlets you watch and measures you take to feel confident you’re getting the facts.
Review your personal values
- Political leanings are strongly impacted by an individual’s values. When talking politics, discuss your own viewpoints on various issues and how those viewpoints inform your voting. Review with your child your rational for various policies and, if age-appropriate, discuss the process of identifying a political candidate who most aligns with your values.
- Encourage healthy discourse around various policies, and help your child understand and respect that others may have different opinions. These discussions will encourage them to develop a perspective and allow them to understand which policies they support most.
Help your child find their voice
- Community service is another terrific avenue for helping your child find their political voice when they are too young to vote. If your child is interested in helping the environment, for instance, perhaps as a family you could consider a park clean-up or increasing recycling in the home. Or, if your child is concerned about disparities between communities, help them find avenues to volunteer.
- By teaching your child various actions that match their personal and political values, they will learn there are other avenues besides voting to contribute to and support community issues that concern them.
- For younger children, you can teach them more about the voting process by holding family votes for various activities in the home, such as what’s for dinner, which game to play or which movie to watch.
Taking these initial steps can help your family to normalize the discussion of heated issues, and acknowledge the diversity of perspectives and opinions in our country. In addition, they can help your child become an informed participant of the democratic process.
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