Talking Politics With Kids

I’m a Mormon mom from Provo, UT who plans to vote for Barack Obama. It’s not super rare or anything, but you could say most of my surrounding community is pro-Romney. You can vote for whichever candidate you like.

Why am I telling you this? To invite passionate political comments? Not really–I don’t think blog comments are the best place for constructive political discussion. We all know it’s not exactly polite to talk about politics in mixed company–where “mixed” means the whole internet.

So what is the best place for political discussion?

I’m thinking, dinner table.

My 15-year-old son told my husband, “Everything on the radio that mom listens to makes it sound like President Obama is great. But at school everyone says the opposite.”

I talked about some of the issues of talking to kids about politics here,  Some of the comments suggested that kids shouldn’t be involved with politics. That may be true for very young children. But even my youngest daughter (age 5) listens (eavesdrops?), asks questions, and is aware of what’s going on because we watch the debates and listen to NPR as a family. My husband is very involved in local politics and one only needs to check Facebook to find an issue to weigh in on. So we are all talking about this stuff. The question is, how to do it civilly? Click through for 5 ways to introduce politics to your kids.

In my situation, I have to be especially conscientious because most of my kids’ friends, teachers, and leaders are (most likely) going to represent opinions that are the opposite of my own. So I have to talk about the issues and show both sides. I can’t rely on nasty attacks or saying that the other side is “dumb,”  because I’m simultaneously trying to teach my kids to be respectful of opposing views while indoctrinating them with my own. It’s really hard, you guys!

I also have to be open to my kids disagreeing with me. As a family, we watched both conventions. My kids liked the Democrats. (I still think Bill Clinton did a great job explaining why I support President Obama.) Then we watched the debates. They were split. My son thought Romney made a better showing while my daughter was shocked at the mention of cutting PBS. You have to isolate values and weigh them, I explained.  “If you value Romney’s casting of aspersions on the health care system which closely resembles the one he promoted as governor of Massachusetts more than you value PBS then you should vote for him.” I may not have phrased that entirely objectively.

And speaking of objectivity, I’m not entirely objective when I talk to my kids about politics. I try to admit certain biases, but of course I’m trying to persuade them to my way of thinking about things I care deeply about. Isn’t that the gist of parenting?

When it comes to talking politics with kids, in general you want more explaining, more understanding, more empathy, more manners.

And you want less ignorance, fewer sweeping generalizations, less cruelty, less name-calling, and fewer privileges for the wealthy that skewer the middle class. (Not objective. See above.)

If you’re looking for ways to introduce politics to your school-age kids,  check out the following suggestions. You’ll find more here.

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