Politics? That’s child’s play.
How to talk about difficult subjects like politics with your children.
Every parent wants their child to be safe and happy. But sometimes, in the world we live in, that simple goal feels like an impossible challenge. Everywhere you look, politics are impacting the lives of everyone — and children are no exception.
The influence of media on our kids is plain to see, but we can also see the incredible response of youth in the UK and around the world. Children are engaging at younger ages. As parents, we can choose how to begin these conversations with our own kids in a way that builds respect, tolerance, and good-will.
It’s really simple: just TALK, ASK, and ENCOURAGE.
Talking with your children, even from a young age, is proven to promote learning and help them develop critical thinking skills. More importantly, starting a conversation also lets your child know that it is OK to talk about difficult subjects. This may allow you to clear up any confusion, fears, or misperceptions. To help make talking safe and productive, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Try to look at both sides of the argument. This can be challenging, but it allows the child to think analytically and process the information. Information coming from “the other side” won’t be as shocking or scary.
- Share your personal beliefs. More importantly, take the time to explain why!
- Make it a point to set standards. Don’t be afraid to emphasize acceptance and respect.
- Use real-world examples. The real world is all around them anyways; speaking plainly will reinforce how important this dialogue is. You can also use examples relevant to their everyday lives, such as the playground and sharing toys.
One-sided talking is just a lecture. Creating a safe space will allow your child to articulate their own thoughts, which will help them wrestle with challenging ideas on their own. Invite them to share with a few of these tips:
- Start simple, and keep it direct. “What do you think about that?” “How does that make you feel?” These are perfectly good questions to ease into a conversation, and they let your child dictate the tone and depth to start.
- Probe and clarify. This may be one of the first times they are articulating something out loud. It may get messy, and that’s okay. You can help by asking for further explanation or an example. This is especially helpful if their opinions are different from yours.
If you are able to talk to your child, you are also building a healthy relationship. That gives you more things to do together as they grow. Here are a few things you can do together if your child wants to make a bigger impact:
- Get involved in the community. Democracy is about voices just as much as votes. Even without a ballot, they can spread their ideas, write letters, and meet your local MP.
- Join social clubs at school. Running for school council, joining debate club, or standing for house captain are all good ways to learn responsibility and get involved at school.
- Invite them to watch the news. Watching together can build a bond and spark new discussions. Many networks have kid-friendly shows like CBBC Newsround or First News Live.
- Visit Parliament. It’s free, anytime Parliament is in session. Visiting in person (and possibly meeting a representative) can make the world of politics more real and tangible.
There is no formula to engage children about politics. Every parent must decide how and when to have important conversations with their child. But starting young can help set the tone for productive, positive engagement that will benefit your child’s development in many ways, and there’s nothing political about that!