Tools to navigate political conversations with youth during the 2020 Presidential Election
Navigating this political season is going to be quite the feat. If you are a parent, guardian, or underage yourself the lines may appear even more blurry than they already are. With more than half of young people getting their information via social media, it can be hard to distinguish fact from fiction. The news these days spreads like wildfire. It is vital to sit down and reflect on how you can stay calm, informed, and involved no matter what age you are.
Stay neutral when discussing politics: Instead of getting caught up in candidacy and political jargon that children will not digest, discuss real-world issues. Start at a community level and build out into broader matters. Simplify, but do not downplay, what is going on in the world, and discuss some of the solutions to those problems. Children will parrot what they hear back and then spread that information to peers. Instead of telling them what to believe, encourage critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. A great learning exercise would be asking what they think a solution could be. When we force our opinion, we actively discourage these necessary life skills.
Fact-checking: Politics and the world of news coverage is full of misleading information and to put it lightly, theatrics. Around this time of year, we will begin to see candidates and civilians slander one another online and in commercials right on our TV’s. School-aged children will also most likely overhear parroted information by their peers, and see loads of information spamming them online. Encourage open dialogue around what they are seeing, and allow questions. Get them to come to you instead of taking everything at face value. Depending on their age, this might be a good time to introduce the concept of fact-checking information. Click here and here to see two useful resources on fact-checking.
Teach humanity: Oftentimes when we enter this realm we leave humanity at the door. Politics has a tendency to create an “us” vs “them” agenda. Remind yourself or kids what this is all about: we the people. Experts say that as young as 3-5 kids will already start experiencing the name-calling and ugliness that is involved in the process of politics. Actively work to discourage this behavior portrayed by others and repeat steps one through two. Explain the butterfly effect-- everything we do or say has an effect on someone else. Instead, focus on teaching how to treat each and every human being with kindness, equality, and love.
How to show up: There are so many forms that action can come in. There is so much room to play even if you yourself or someone you care for is not of voting age. The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals is a great place to start. Get inspired to learn about what needs to be done to improve the quality of life on our planet. Choose a couple of these goals and implement them in your daily life-- use less plastic, turn off the lights, pick up trash, etc. It is never too early to start talking about voting (even if you cannot). Understand the magnitude of how important your voice is-- one vote really does matter. If you are a parent or guardian, motivate them to exercise their right to vote when they get the chance. While they cannot, they can still encourage others to do so by sharing information, talking to friends and family, attending voting polls with an adult, attending campaigns, and volunteering. If you or your child feels passionate about a particular policy/issue… talk about it! Learn more about it and share this information with others. For the tiny ones you could do creative writing or drawings such as, “What would you do if you were president?”
Spend time arming yourself or kids with the facts in order to make informed decisions.
If you live on this planet you have a right to know what is going on, no matter how old you are.
As a child, it can be hard to deflect overwhelming information always coming in, and as an adult, it can be hard to educate, stand back, and remain neutral. However, if you encourage all of these values in yourself or your children, you are most definitely on the right path to becoming an independent, self-aware, critical thinking humanitarian.
You must remember that knowledge and love are so very powerful, and if we have these core values there is a good chance we are doing the right thing.