Helping Kids Navigate Today’s Political Climate

Happy adorable little girl smiling and waving American flag. Patriotic holiday. Happy kid, cute little child girl with American flag. USA celebrate 4th of July. Independence Day concept.

Most of us who are striving to survive the pandemic. We are navigating through the many struggles we face as a country with regard to racial injustice. We each have also had our own personal journey through the emotionally intense political battles that have dominated the media.

In the meantime, our children are witnessing our reactions to these things and are being imprinted with messages around values and morality. They are making decisions about what is right and wrong, what is normal, or not, and how much we as Americans should be involved and in what ways.

In researching this topic, I came across a blog written by Regan McMahon that made many good points that readers might appreciate.

We need to appreciate that our young people get much of their political information from social media, like Twitter and FaceBook. For all of us, it can be difficult to tell fact from fiction. A study from the University of Chicago recommended that  “Youth must learn how to judge the credibility of online information and how to find divergent views on varied issues.”  This then is one of the responsibilities of parents and others who influence young people.  They need to have frequent discussions to promote greater awareness and understand to discern facts from fiction.

Here is their list of ‘How Parents and Other Adults Can Guide Elementary School Kids’:

Decode ads. 

Watch out for campaign-inspired bullying. 

• Seek out kid-friendly news.

• Read kid-friendly books about American politics. 

And here, ‘How Parents and Other Adults Can Guide Middle School Kids’:

• Talk about political advertising.

• Share political cartoons and some of the conversations on television shows.

• Tackle the tough topics.

• Invite kids to describe how they believe elections really work.

• Invite kids to recognize hate speech and fear-mongering.

Finally, ‘How Parents and Other Adults Can Guide High School Kids’:

• Address political rhetoric head-on. 

• Watch news together.

• Discuss the role of social media in promoting political decisions.

• Remind them not to believe everything they read or hear.

• Talk about fear and hate-mongering among politicians — and how mudslinging is nothing new.

• Reinforce your family values. 

Close up of multiple I Voted stickers on blue shirt - Concept of US election voter fraud by placing multiple voting stickers.

Parents need to see themselves as influencers in children’s lives in terms of promoting high degrees of morality. Much of this has to do with educating kids about our political systems and why they were designed as they are.

Here is a timeless YouTube clip from an animated musical educational series called Schoolhouse Rock! It aired on ABC in 1978 and is entitled, “I’m Just a Bill.” It is an animated story of how a bill becomes a law. Parents might enjoy showing this to their children and explaining some of the information that can help them better appreciate how our government works. Parents may find they actually benefit from watching it in order to refresh their own understanding of how bills become laws.

In addition to promoting an enhanced sense of morality in our political world, parents and others who influence children may want to make sure they transmit messages to promote pride in being a citizen of the United States, guiding them towards patriotism and pride in the underlying values that guide our nation.

 Invitation for Reflection:

  1.  How would you describe your journey through the current political events? To what extent were you able to be a thoughtful, careful and critical consumer of the information versus more emotional and rigid in your beliefs?
  2. If you were able to remain relatively calm and clear about your own moral compass during all the political heat, how did you manage being in the company of others who might have been more highly emotional, opinionated and intent on pressuring you or others to embrace their viewpoint?
  3. What conversations did you have with your children to encourage them to learn how to be respectful of the opinions of others while maintaining their own values?
  4. Which of the points from this author’s blog resonated with you? How might they influence your attitudes, beliefs and behaviors as well as what you want to present to your children?

Diane Wagenhals, Director, Lakeside Global Institute