Parent to Parent: Politics in the Family
Parent to Parent
Politics in the Family
by Patti Hermes
Are you talking to your kids about the Presidential Primaries? I know the final election is still a long way off, but it’s hard to ignore. With advertisements all over the TV and newspapers, signs and billboards and even bumper stickers are showing up all over the place. If you turn on the TV news, you might begin to believe that nothing else is happening in the world.
I know that some parents habitually talk about taxes and the war in Iraq at the dinner table. Personally, I believe in preserving my children’s innocence just a bit longer, if possible. They’re at the age where they would simply parrot my politics, without a clear understanding of the issues. Or they may simply assign the candidates into good and bad teams, just like their Teen Titans.
While I tend to believe that young children aren’t ready to grasp the concepts of most of the issues, I use the media coverage of the election as a teaching tool. Rather than let my kids choose sides, as they do so loudly on the television “news”, we discuss how our government works, and how we can use the pre-election hoopla to choose our leaders wisely. Knowing what each position is responsible for, and how they all work together, helps us to figure out what qualities make one a good candidate for the job.
We talk about which positions are up for election in this cycle. Yes, there’s more at stake than just who’s going to be the next President. Locally, we have the added bonus of filling a Congressional seat that has been vacated mid-term, so that’s a whole new lesson for us all. And, of course, there are all the local county offices to fill, ones which I never hear about until election time. I’ve got lots of research ahead of me to tackle this election intelligently.
Of course, it takes more than just sitting in front of the TV to actually have a conversation about the Presidential election. If you only watched the news, you might believe that there are only six candidates running between two political parties. Even the newspapers, with their fair and balanced reporting, would have you believe that only the so-called frontrunners matter. I think they could learn a lesson or two about fairness from some elementary schoolchildren. We’re lucky to have the internet, and access to all sorts of independent and even foreign media, to give us some alternate perspectives on the whole business.
As our children get older, they may simply adopt our politics without thinking through how the issues affect them. Or, they may choose the opposite position, simply to rebel. Sure we’d like to pass down our values, and we can do that by discussing our ideas about what makes a good leader. At the same time, we should encourage our teens to form their own opinions, to think critically and independently, by taking their ideas seriously. So what if they choose to disagree? Why can’t Liberal parents live harmoniously with a Conservative?
As parents, it is our responsibility to share the political process with our children appropriately. But we should be careful not to poison our little ones against any particular candidate, no matter how strong our feelings. They just might win, and then we’re stuck with them. It’s better to leave the personalities out of the discussion, and bring up the issues as your children are able to understand them. That way, when they’re old enough to vote, they’ll be informed enough to do so responsibly.
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