It’s been a hyper-political year in the nation, with months of preparation for the 8th August general elections. With the election D-day just a week away, it’s impossible to miss the political blitz displayed on the news media, social media, TV shows, Ads, campaign trails and other various media outlets around us.
In many cases, these political messages are full of sheer exaggerations, slander, innuendos, scandalous attacks and counterattacks as well as half-baked truths all in the name of securing an elective seat. All these resulting in a nasty cycle of negativity and tension in the country.
While we know and understand the dynamics of politics as adults, a consistent worry is emerging about how the young children take in all these political theatrics or are they simply ignoring them? Since politics is largely considered a ‘grown ups’ affair, children tend to be left out of the entire process.
Although your child might be years away from casting a vote, they might be interested to know and understand what is going on in their country.
So the question is, have you talked to your kids about the coming general election or prepared them for the process and its possible outcomes? If not, below we discuss why, when and how to get political with your child, providing practical approaches to handling their unexpected and inquisitive questions on political matters.
Why should you talk to your child about politics?
Today, children are more inquisitive and connected to what’s happening around them not only locally but also on a global scale (don’t they all know about Donald Trump!).
Information moves around at high speeds and you would be shell-shocked to find out that your kids can get access to the latest viral political news even before you do. Unfortunately, as they are bombarded with all this unfiltered information, children are not in the best place to discern and differentiate the truths from typical political overstatement. This leaves them in the hands of speculation and confusion.
Teaching younger children the importance of voting and the impact of the entire election process in the nation is an essential culture that more parents should embrace. It’s not just for ensuring that they cast a vote when they are older, but the bigger picture is to make sure that they understand politics and its influence on almost everything around them.
The politics of today affect their future lives, involving them in appreciating good citizenship and choosing good leaders sets them on the right path as future citizens of the country.
Some parents often feel that introducing children to politics may rob them their innocence and burden them with matters too ‘mature’ for them. However, while you may want to shelter them from the harsh realities of this world, kids today have many questions, especially during an election period. They are not immune to political wars or blind to the posters, banners, or the campaign road shows going around their neighborhood.
Interestingly, they would want to know why is candidate A better than candidate B? Or why they cannot be allowed to vote? Answering their questions is the best way possible to make sure that their innocence is not distorted or manipulated by external forces.
When you dismiss their political interests, it only pushes them to ask further from neighbors, friends or the internet. In turn, this can lead to major misinformation.
Additionally, creating awareness on political matters initiates a sense of responsibility in your child. Naturally, kids will focus on things that matter to them (that’s why sharing is always a hard lesson to teach), but an exposure to political decision-making process allows them to think critically how their actions can affect other people.
They also learn at an early age on how best to develop their opinions and defend them while respecting views of others if ever caught in the heat of a political discussion.
When to engage your child in political matters?
Politics is considered as one of the topmost difficult topics to talk freely about in an objective way. Political talks are known to drive bitter rivalry wedges between friends, colleagues and family members.
It is a touchy conversation that requires intense political correctness to keep up peace even among grown-ups whom you would expect to be reasonable enough to draw the lines. Therefore, it becomes extremely challenging for most parents to engage their children into these vicious political cycles.
Nevertheless, it is tricky to ascertain a particular age bracket that is best suitable to introduce politics to children. In essence, there is no right or wrong time; however, it is best to cultivate the elements of governance and policies among children as early as possible.
Involvement in political affairs is a personal choice and so is the decision on when to engage your child in politics. It can only feel right when parents are able to speak comfortably about political matters and understand the ability of their young ones in comprehending such affairs without overwhelming them.
A perfect indicator to follow is your child’s interest and curiosity. If they are asking questions, regardless of how basic they are, it creates an opportunity to hold political conversations.
Fundamentally, it is better to start with simple introductions on politics and it is integral in establishing a solid foundation in the future.
With younger children, the first step is to highlight basic concepts such as respecting other people’s opinions. With time, as the kids grow older, political topics shift to more sober discussions on patriotism and democracy.
How can you help your child understand politics?
After the general elections are long gone, posters are pulled down and we have buried our political differences, politics will still be here as part of our everyday life.
Teaching your child that there is life beyond an election period not only allows them to be open-minded but also to appreciate the role of an election process.
To steer them in the right direction, here are various ways in which you can start discussions and engage your child in meaningful constructive conversations:
Address issues, not politics: Children may not be able to understand intricate concepts such as manifestos. it is, therefore, a good idea to focus on issue based matters such as health care, school funding, security, and safety; local topics that they can relate with before delving into tougher subjects.
Encouraging them to think critically about solutions to such issues also goes along way to nurture conscious political growth.
Use Real Life scenarios: Politics can be a complicated subject for kids to comprehend. Using life situations can create a favorable platform to spark a political conversation. For instance, relating school voting process as a symbol of the national electoral process can be a good place to start.
Be neutral, don’t push your own agenda: For parents with strong political views, it is easy to try to influence your child’s way of thinking. However, it would be completely wrong to do so, given that every person including kids has a basic right to hold their own political opinions.
Allowing them to have their own political voice, means that you are raising an individual with the ability to make their own decisions without being swayed easily. Instead of saying don’t mention candidate X in this house’’, rather ask them ‘’what they think candidate Y can do better.
Keep things positive by setting a good example: Certainly, we cannot all agree on the same political view, respecting the fact that we are different is crucial in ensuring that as a nation we remain united regardless of the election outcomes.
Children learn a lot from our words, emotions, values, and actions. As a parent, you should be your child’s best role model, guiding them into a path of political tolerance.
Take them out to vote: Where possible, allow your children to accompany you to the polling station. It will be a great way to familiarize them with the voting process. Additionally, it will create a perfect opportunity to teach them how elections take place and their importance in selecting good leaders.
With such experiences, they will later be able to emulate a similar process in future voting and appreciate the outcomes.
Politics can be a vicious and spiteful affair that drives fear, resentment, and division among people. As we approach the general elections in our country, if not for anything else, let’s set a good example for our children and the future they hold dear.
It is sad that as parents, we allow politics to divide us, especially along tribal lines. Our children look up to us as model citizens, they see our actions, hear our utterance and follow the examples we set. Once again, if not for anything else, but our children, let us set a good example by voting peacefully.