I promise this isn’t a political post. It isn’t even going to be about Trump or Clinton. Rather, I want to talk to parents about parenting and the election. Every year, the beginning of November the country goes to the polls. Of course, every four years, that event takes on special meaning as it did this year. I don’t know about you, but for us most years we were doing good just to get our ballots filled out in time and turned in! I mean who has time to even consider that maybe I should be doing something with my children when it comes to the election.
Which of course is mistake number one – to not talk about the election. I suppose it’s more important in those presidential years, but I could certainly make an argument for every year. We’ve often said if we had it to do all over again (parenting), one of the things we would have been way more intentional about is talking to our kids about worldview.
Now worldview is a huge topic, but we’re talking about asking our kids those big questions… is there a God? If there is a God, does he care about me? BIG questions! So what does worldview have to do with the election? Simply this, the election affords another opportunity in real life to discuss the impact of worldview. The election gives you another opportunity to talk about issues like God and life and respect and kindness. The election becomes an excuse to help your kids solidify their worldview; especially in a presidential year.
So 3 Mistakes parents make when it comes to the election:
- To not talk about the election – don’t let the busyness of life prevent you from taking advantage of a teachable moment. Don’t let the uncomfortableness of life stop you either. This year especially, I found myself avoiding the conversation, after all don’t they say, “Never talk about money, sex, or politics with your family”? Which of course means for parents those are exactly the topics we should be talking about. I wish we would have brought it up sooner this year; not to sway minds, but to share thoughts and opinions. Which brings me to the second mistake:
- To focus only on teaching our children and not understanding their questions. Of course this applies more to our older children. But often as parents we want to instruct and correct our children on the election and never understand their questions and concerns. Granted, sometimes it can feel like our kids are way too emotional or have uneducated opinions – but this year’s election really highlighted for me the fact that regardless of how emotional or uneducated those opinions may seem, it is worth understanding where those ideas are coming from. Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said, “Seek first to understand, then seek to be understood.” As parents, it is such a great time to work at understanding those feelings our kids have, even if we disagree with them. Often, those feelings give us great insight into our children (and sometimes can even lead us to have better opinions!). Remember the great goal with our children isn’t just teaching them WHAT to think, but also HOW to think. Even though I disagreed with some of her conclusions, I was blown away by the way my high school daughter was able to think about the election. She’s not old enough to vote, but she is beginning to use her understanding of God’s truth to decipher the world. That will serve her well in the future.
- Teach your children about the country they live in. How many kids understand the Electoral College? Of course, I could ask how many adults understand the Electoral College? Which exposes one of the big reasons why we sometimes make mistakes in parenting – we let ignorance cripple us. If you don’t know what the electoral college is, then google it! Khan Academy has a fantastic short video on the Electoral College featuring Sesame Street’s Grover. Don’t miss the opportunity to teach your kids about American history. The most successful teachers are the ones that can make their teaching come alive. This is an example of an opportunity to do just that. Normally your kids could care less about the constitution. But all the election talk gives you a chance to explain what an executive order is… why voting for president impacts our Supreme Court… how much power does a president really have… and so much more. I realize our country’s history isn’t this simple and clean account of human events. But even those tense moments that make up our national story are important conversations to have.
I have one bonus thought, which will come the closest to feeling political (not on purpose). These same three mistakes can rear their head after the election is decided. Regardless of whether your candidate wins or loses, talk about the results and how you feel about it. Teach your children but also work to understand how they feel about the results. And finally, use the real life example to teach your children about what happens after a president is elected. It’s a great opportunity to explain the uniqueness of America’s tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.
I could go on, but I finish with this – in parenting we only get so many teachable moments. We can’t afford to miss any of them. Don’t make these mistakes when it comes to the election. Take advantage of the opportunity and talk about the election, remembering to focus on both teaching and understanding your child, and finally use the occasion to teach your kids about America! What will make America great again is what has always made America great, and that’s the people of this amazing country we call home. That happens one person at a time and that begins one child at a time!