Parenting: Discussing politics and other tough topics with your kids

November 9, 2012 2:35:53 PM PST
Election day is a wonderful opportunity to start having thoughtful discussions with your tween or teen about politics.

Experts at two websites have some good ideas to get you started: Storknet.com and thoughtfulwomen.org.

The main idea here is that our democracy works best when everyone participates. So if your child not only sees you going to the voting booth, but also learns to think critically and form their own opinions, even volunteer during an election year and ask questions after a debate, then it breeds responsible behavior in the next generation of voting adults.

The experts at Storknet suggest several critical points:

1. Share all sides of the political discussion. I do this with my son, Jake. I'm not trying to convince him to be a Republican, Democrat or Independent. I respect his intelligence and I assume he'll form his own opinions over time. But I'm trying to get him to see all sides of an issue, to think about the underprivileged, the successful and what their obligations are to each other in our culture. I like having him read articles, the web and watch the debates with me to spur our discussions.

2. Broaden the discussion so that you're talking about our country's political process and its importance. Teach your kids more than their teachers might have time to in school: how lucky we are that we live in a democracy since much of the world doesn't; the importance of honest, fair elections without violence; how difficult it was for minorities and women to get the right to vote; how disagreements make our country stronger not weaker.

3. Take your kids with you when you vote - right into the voting booth. Explain how you cast your ballot and what happens to your vote from there. You could even talk about how the process sometimes goes wrong (hanging chads) or about the recent voter ID controversy.

4. Follow the election results together at breakfast tomorrow. Discuss how it feels if their favorite candidate wins or loses and how mature people handle either situation. Talk about the peaceful transition between a new president and a former one. Explain the inauguration and its rich history in our country. Google some past inaugural ceremonies to let them get a feel for the importance of the Presidency.

The writers at thoughtfulwomen.org take it a step further saying your serious political discussions with your kids gives them the confidence to become analytical, feel independent, participate in classroom discussions, debate opposing viewpoints and have real conversations. All of it adds up to stronger, smarter kids who develop opinions and learn to defend their points of view.

Give it a try... and be open to future controversial discussions on religion and sex too, now that you've opened the door to critical thinking and independence!


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