Who Are You Voting For, Mom? How I Talk to My Kids about Politics

Mom, Who are You Voting For? | Houston Moms Blog

“Who are you voting for, Mom?” My son asked me this as we were driving through our neighborhood festooned with political yard signs.

My oldest is a third grader and has been asking about politics for a while. Like many parents, we’ve brought him to the polls with us. I recently let him read a couple of candidate letters that have come in the mail. The last presidential election happened when he was a first grader and even then, he had lots of questions. He’s always been very interested in the U.S. Presidents. Other kids knew the names of dinosaurs at age 3; he knew the names of presidents.

I was very proud of myself at the time of the last presidential election for putting maximum effort into keeping things neutral in our home. I wanted to protect him from any negative talk which can create fear in young children. If my husband and I were discussing politics and we noticed him listening in, we would immediately neutralize the conversation. Honestly, I don’t know where the self-control came from. I just kept thinking to myself “go high”. I loved my son too much to burden him this early with feelings that weren’t necessarily his.

At his age, his identity is pretty much wrapped up in ours. It’s not until the tween and teen years that kids will start to listen to peers over parents. These are the years to impress family values and morals upon our children, but when it comes to such a grown-up topic as politics, I want to respect his autonomy as a person and future voter. Having changed my own political persuasion in recent years, I’m aware that sometimes, what we grow up hearing is not necessarily in line with our beliefs after all.

It’s been two years since the presidential election. When my son asked me who I was voting for in the recent midterms, I decided to tell him. I realized at that point that he needed some guidance about this whole process, so I gave it some thought and came up with seven age-appropriate things I really wanted him to know::

1) We are so fortunate to live in America, a place where we can {technically though not always} exercise our right to vote for representatives in government. It’s not a perfect system, but we are lucky to be able to play a part at all.

2) Elections are competitive and sometimes it sounds like it really is a “battleground”, but don’t let that kind of talk scare you. Electing representatives should not be a negative, combative situation. Supporters can get overly passionate about their candidates but we must still be civil and respectful to each other. At the end of the day, we still have to live with and love our neighbors.

3) Politicians are people who are vying for the same job. They will sometimes say very negative things about each other so that they can persuade others to vote for them. We cannot believe everything we hear. Different people, organizations, and news outlets will disagree on what is and is not true. However, we need to use our critical thinking skills, and our hearts, to figure out what matters most to us in a candidate.

4) Think about our family values and what’s important to us. In our family, we talk about having a heart for the poor and the less fortunate. We talk about identity, racism and discrimination. We talk about freedom, American history, free press, and why America is great. I make a choice for a candidate with all these things in mind.

5) No candidate is perfect so we should never hang all our hopes on a person. There are good things and bad things about everyone, because they are human. We all want many of the same things, like security and safety, but just have different opinions on how to get there.

6) Be open to learning and growing. I feel a certain way about these issues, but it doesn’t have to be how you feel when you’re old enough to understand better. It’s OK to disagree with people you love. People can change their minds too! We all have the freedom to dig deeper into the issues as we grow—and we never stop growing.

7) No matter the results of any election, we still have each other and we will live our lives to the fullest. Will things be OK either way? For us, likely yes, but not for everyone. Sometimes the results of elections can really affect certain groups of people, so we should do what we can to help the vulnerable. We are people of faith so we can have hope that God has a plan and will protect those that need it.

I understand that in some families, politics is taken as seriously as religion. That’s not us, but I still struggle with how to use my influence on my children during these years when what we tell them is taken as absolute truth. You know what they say about power and responsibility. Instilling morals and values are one thing, but sowing seeds of discord in a young child’s heart is unfair, mostly to the child.

So, I will aim to let my young children know who I support without vilifying others {this will be hard, but I’ll do my best}. I will tame any overly passionate political talk in front of them. I will make them feel safe. And most of all, I will try to instill in them a sense of hope that the world can be a better place, no matter the political outcomes.

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