The presidential race of 2016 is like none other. People are demanding change, and with change comes lots of messiness. In this case, the messiness includes lying, suspicion, and name-calling. Many of us adults are completely obsessed with the whole thing, and this is okay because we are adults. But it’s not so okay for kids.
Here are five ways to limit the negative effects that a difficult campaign can have on kids:
Protect younger kids from the anger and hatred.
One of the most distinctive things about this election is the sheer volume of anger. Americans are angry, and the candidates are responding with anger of their own, some of it targeting other Americans.
With younger kids, it is important that you limit their exposure to the vitriol. Young kids are sponges and will absorb any information they are exposed too, some of it good, a lot of it damaging.
Turn off the TV when the kids are in the room. Don’t play videos of the candidates speaking where the kids can overhear. Don’t leave magazines and newspapers with explosive headlines lying around.
Talk about the campaign with older kids.
Your older kids will be exposed to many different perspectives during this election because of social media. Not everything they read will be accurate. Not everything they read will be aligned with the values that you have tried to teach them over the years.
Talk about the election with your kids. Let them ask questions and make an effort to answer them thoughtfully, to clarify what they may or may not have heard. Share with them your perspective on what is being said—but try to be as nonpartisan as possible.
Don’t expect your kids to toe the party line with you.
We often see little kids attending rallies with their parents, wearing the candidate’s T-shirts. Kids stand with their parents and mimic everything their parents say, even if they have no idea what the words mean.
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Keep your kids out of your politics until they are old enough to decide for themselves what they want and believe. They will have plenty of time to educate themselves and go through this when they are older.
Use the election as an opportunity to educate.
One of the greatest things about America is that it was born from a revolutionary spirit. Colonists objected to how they were being treated by the British government, and they revolted and prevailed. As a result, a new nation was born—one based on liberty and equality.
America is going through a similar revolution now. The people are protesting against the status quo. Talk to your kids about how great America is and can be, and how we need to recognize our failures, celebrate our victories, and move forward together in a positive way.
Get yourself away from it all.
People are so preoccupied with the election that it is taking over their lives. They are obsessed with what they read and spend countless hours arguing about what the candidates are bringing to the table.
This makes people very crabby, and this crabbiness can spill over into your relationships with your kids. So get away from it regularly. Watch your favorite show, read a book, take your kids for ice cream, or do a family activity.
We have five months left in this campaign. Five months of negativity, name-calling and lies—all things that we have taught our kids are not okay. We, the grown-ups, must limit their exposure and educate our children so they can grow up to be the people we want them to be.
Talking Politics with Your Kids
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