With the impending presidential election, political discussions about candidates and issues may be heating up at home. And when close friends, extended family or even parents have differing points of view, children might feel like they have to choose a side.
As parents, your beliefs matter to your kids, and children often observe your interactions. Whether you’re talking about politics at home or your kids encounter discussions outside of the house, there are ways to help diffuse their concerns.
Melissa Buchholz, Psy. D., a clinical psychologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Child Health Clinic, shares the following advice.
It’s OK to have an argument in front of your kids, as long as they see a resolution. Often, parents put the kids to bed, work out the argument while they’re sleeping and everything is fine when the kids wake up, but the kids don’t see a resolution take place. Kids need to see that you can still have a relationship with someone you disagree with—that there are healthy ways to interact with someone who doesn’t share the same opinion.
Recognize when a healthy argument becomes unhealthy. In healthy conflict, opposition comes from a good place and the people arguing maintain respect for each other. It becomes unhealthy when people start calling names or becoming physically or verbally aggressive. If you feel like an argument is headed in that direction, ask yourself if you need to tone it down.
If kids have specific questions about the election, model informed decision-making. Share news with your kids from sources you trust. Explain that people have a lot of ideas about what’s best for our country, and some people, organizations and even news sources disagree about what is and isn’t true, which can make it hard to form a decision.
Your kids might have different opinions than you, and that’s OK too. You can do the best to raise your kids with your values, but at some point they’ll become an adult and make their own decisions. It’s important to give kids permission to grow and learn and make up their own minds.