WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – As Election Day looms, how do we talk to our kids about the contentious spirit and historic ramifications?
“I think the most important thing is to explain to kids that what we’re doing is picking a team that’s going to solve America’s problems,” says Dr. Matthew Schmidt, associate professor of national security and political science at University of New Haven. “The President is like the coach of the team.”
But how do we explain the divisiveness – and the candidates accusatory language – to our kids who we teach to be kind and respectful? Schmidt says, explain that Trump and Biden are acting this way for a reason.
“The candidates are doing this because it’s so important that they’re trying to get the urgency of this choice across,” says Schmidt. “Whatever side you’re on, I would explain it as your family values. We’re looking at this guy as president because he best represents our values.”
Your teens might be flexing their muscles and making their own choices, different than yours. Embrace it!
“You want to let them have debates with you and try not to shut them down and explain where your view is and where their view is,” advises Schmidt. “I think parents can chill about that a little bit. Whatever changes at 16 might come around at 21.”
If you are not comfortable taking your kids to the polls during this unusual time, Google a ballot. Show them what it looks like and what you do.
“These are some of the things as a teacher I have to remember and learn over and over again that my students don’t know what a ballot looks like,” says Schmidt. “They don’t know what it is to fill in a circle or make an X or things like that.”
The most important move? Support the process.
“It’s important to remind kids that we’re lucky. However messed up our politics are, there are a lot of places worse than we are” says Schmidt, noting that being positive about the process will spur this young generation to find their voices and get involved. “Someday they’re us. Someday they’ll be in charge.”