Talking Politics in Tense Times
By Erin Wyble Newcomb
Illustrated by Annie Dwyer Internicola
So far in my life, I’ve voted in five presidential elections. I’m not the only one who’s noticed that the political climate this time feels more divisive and more contentious than any in recent memory. What’s different for me, this time, is that I have children old enough to hear and ask questions about some of the issues and conversations circulating in our public discourse. The climate has led my husband and me to think through our principles about talking politics with kids. I offer these suggestions as a starting point for discussions that build bridges between us.
We start by trying to help our children see multiple sides of an issue. When my seven-year-old overheard us talking about the governor’s proposal for free college tuition, we summarized the plan for her. “Free is great!” she enthusiastically replied. And at that point, we asked a lot of questions, like what “free” might really mean and who would benefit in what ways. Our goal was not to impose an opinion on her or force her to pick a side, but to understand the motivation behind the proposal as well as the challenges it might face. I realize that this can sound quite sophisticated for a second-grader, but I am continually impressed by children’s ability to understand complex topics when we take the time to break them down and walk them through.