MOM + POP
HOW TO TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT POLITICS
(AND HOW NOT TO)
By Luke Gialanella | Contributor
SEPT-OCT 2021 ISSUE
So, your kids are asking you about what’s going on in the news and you don’t know what to tell them. Politics is a difficult subject to tackle on your own, let alone with a child in today’s political climate. Here’s a handy guide for talking to your kids about politics, and how not to — written by a 16-year-old high schooler with a passion for educating young children about government and civics.
Remain unbiased and teach your kids to be tolerant of others.
One of the most important things to remember when discussing politics with your children is that you are only teaching them about the issues, not how to feel about them. They must be able to come to their own conclusions and express their own views without any undue influence from others. While you may hope that you and your child share political values, it is crucial that you allow them to form their own value sets and ideologies, so that when they come of age, they will be independent members of the political stratosphere, voting for and advocating for policies they support. Remember, kids are smarter than you think. If engaged in discussion often, they can understand basic and complex political concepts and issues and just as easily have their own opinions.
Politics is not a sport.
In the media and on the internet, politics is often discussed in the same manner as sports. CNN and Fox News begin to blur with ESPN, as flashy colored maps and pundits arguing onscreen make viewers trivialize elections and procedures. Parents should make sure their kids understand that politics is not a laughing matter; it in fact is very serious, and the decisions made by legislators can affect millions both at home and abroad. While it may be fun to interact with online electoral maps and compare odds of candidates winning elections, children must not gamify such sacred processes to the point of trivialization. This doesn’t mean learning about politics can’t be fun for kids, but parents must put everything into perspective and provide historical context before getting into details.
Don’t brush off the tough subjects.
There are some very uncomfortable topics that parents may not want to address with their kids. While this is a personal decision, I believe that if a child is old enough, they should be knowledgeable about all the major topics discussed in the political sphere. When I was younger, I took an extracurricular class on presidential elections and was told that same-sex marriage was “too mature” of a topic to discuss. I believe no issue is “too mature,” as every person (yes, even kids) has a right to voice their opinions and participate in discussions about major issues in society. Since their exposure to these topics often starts online, it may be better for children to learn from their parents first instead of potentially receiving skewed information on the internet or through commercial mass media.
Keep it simple and make it fun.
While kids are smarter than you think, politics can be complicated and daunting at first! When talking to younger people about politics, I like to rely on metaphors and examples — you can’t simply explain a concept and leave it at that. Make these concepts tangible and “real” to children through hands-on participation like simulations and activities or by viewing the actual processes (though C-SPAN might be a bit too slow for younger viewers!).
Give them reliable and understandable online materials.
Here’s where I plug my own organization: In 2017, I founded GOVLEARN Education, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides accessible and easily understandable civics and politics education directed toward elementary and middle school students. Parents and children can receive a free consultation to assist in opening an honest dialogue about our democracy. We are also raising awareness for the lack of this education in schools across the U.S. and attempting to create legislation that could fill this gap. GOVLEARN.ORG and IG: @GOVLEARNEDUCATION