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How you talk about politics around your kids matters. Here’s why.

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day. With midterm elections coming up in November, citizens are being encouraged to vote and participate in our democratic process. It’s tempting to overlook children during an election season. They aren’t old enough to vote, so what do they have to do with anything?

But kids are much more perceptive than we give them credit for. Even though they couldn’t register to vote this week, they are paying attention. They are hearing what their teachers are saying about politics, what their friends’ parents are saying about specific candidates, and they are especially listening to what you are saying.

How you talk about politics around your kids matters. In today’s volatile political climate you may be tempted to keep your children out of the conversation altogether, but that will just lead them to feel confused about what’s going on and not know how to talk about the issues that are important.

You can ensure your child will have a healthy view of politics if you are able to talk about politics with them in a healthy way. That means focusing on issues, rather than candidates, and focusing on policy, rather than personality.

You can ensure your child will have a healthy view of politics if you are able to talk about politics with them in a healthy way.

Over the next few weeks as your kids hear more and more about the midterm elections on social media, from their friends and from their teachers, pay attention to the way you’re talking about candidates and issues in your home and use these tips to keep the conversation positive and constructive.

Refuse to talk about a candidate’s personality.

This is hard because we all have biases, but try and steer the conversation away from personality traits when talking about specific candidates. Remind your kids that voting for a person because of gender, race or personality is not healthy. They must consider the candidate’s policies (if they can find out about those policies) and vote based on what policies they believe are important and what candidate will help uphold those policies.

Use this as an opportunity to educate your child on the differences between Republican and Democratic views on real issues.

Talk to your kids about governmental control and involvement, economic policy differences, views on social issues like abortion and immigration, and how each would choose a Supreme Court Justice and why. Young people need to know why we have two distinct parties in the U.S.

Perhaps even take the time to visit a website such as ISideWith.com with your kids, which puts the focus squarely on the issues, and helps you identify which candidate you most align with, based on what is most important to you. This is a great opportunity to talk with them about what is important to them, as well.

Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, make your case to your kids. Make sure they know why you’ve chosen the party that you have. (This might mean doing some internal work if you’re not sure why you’ve chosen to align with a certain party.)

Be positive. Explain to them why we have a great political system in the U.S.

Fortunately, presidents, senators, congressmen, and congresswomen have limited power because of the three branches of government. Remind them that we have a good system that prevents any one leader from having too much power. Focus on the positive aspects of our governmental system rather than constantly complaining about it.

How you talk about politics with your kids today will matter greatly as they get older. Even if your child isn’t eligible to vote, she will be one day. Start talking to her now, so she can make intelligent and informed decisions in the future.

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