How do you talk with your children or the children in your lives about politics? Or do you talk with your children about politics?
Honestly, it wasn’t an aspect of parenting I had thought much about until ‘becoming an American’. Personal opinions are one thing, and I have plenty of opinions. Engaging in conversations with friends, neighbors, church members, etc. have been enlightening, challenging, frustrating, and important. But as my children are growing up in an amped-up informational age and in a community where classmates come dressed up as political figures (I’m not joking. Four years ago there was a mini John McCain with mom dressed up as Sarah Palin.) or have parents running for local office, we are finding the need to address politics.
My two boys get an hour of screen time a night, with exceptions made because of the ink in my veins. I am a news junky, and this election season offers me a new outlet and responsibility. As a fairly recent naturalized citizen, this will be the first time I cast a vote in a presidential election. So the television has been on more often this fall. And the newspaper (an actual ink & paper newspaper) and news magazines linger a little longer.
Which has meant my kids are asking more questions, and dinner conversations are getting interesting. And difficult.
Tonight the 13 y.o. son parroted back a political ad that has been getting quite a bit of airplay out here: So and so candidate is pro-life without exception and has sided with the Tea Party.
“What does that mean? Pro-life without exception? And what is the Tea Party?’ he asked.
Peter and I did what I think was the best we could do. We answered the question (with thought bubbles in italics) and waited for C to ask for further explanation (which he didn’t):
Us: Pro-life in politics often focuses on abortion rights, but we also want you to think about the death penalty. (But I’m also thinking that if it’s really just about abortion it should be pro-abortion/anti-abortion.)
‘Without exception’ can mean a few things, but again in this political race it is addressing abortion in the case of rape. (Or for some the issue is really ‘legitimate rape’ and whether or not a woman can get pregnant as a result of a ‘legitimate rape’.)
The Tea Party is a group of folks who have common convictions about the role of the American government and were generally unhappy with how the Republican party addressed some of those issues. (Some of the Tea Party’s rhetoric scares me, and as a family of Asian Americans we should all be afraid. Can you pass the salt?)
There are still many political ads left to go before election day, and I am certain that our dinner conversations will circle back to politics in the next few days. So when the conversation circles around to politics, do you try to stay non-partisan? Do you engage? Any advice?