Having just headed to the polls to cast our ballot for our preferred Presidential candidate and the ideas and values he represented, many who supported the losing candidate may be experiencing a range of feelings – disappointment, anger, maybe concern about the future. At the same time, most of us recognize the value of non-judgmental communication with our children. How do we speak to our children about our politics without demonizing the opinions and beliefs of the other side? And why does this matter?
For most parents, it is important that their own beliefs and values, be they political, moral, or religious, be passed down to theirchildren. Our sense of meaningful connection often comes from spending time with people who share our perspectives, and who do we spend more time with than our immediate family? As parents, however, we are in the privileged position of supporting our children in the development of their own minds, which are connected to, but separate to ours. Children feel a greater sense of safety and security when they feel as though their parents will be able to reflect with them on all of their ideas and experienceseven when they risk being different from their own. As children develop, they come in contact with ideas in the wider culture that may conflict with ours, but they need to know that we have the capacity to give them the room and support to come to their own conclusions. Beyond building their sense of security in their relationship with us, this builds skills they will need throughout their lifetime. These skills include the ability to reflect on both their own thoughts and feelings AND the thoughts and feelings of others; their ability to problem solve and form their own conclusions. Perhaps most importantly, our modeling of curiosity for their different ideas builds in them a foundational empathy crucial fortheir ability to build relationships with and be compassionate, kind and considerate towards people who may not be like themselves.
Parenting provides us with many opportunities to voice our opinions and ideas. Take advantage of this opportunity to convey the importance of tolerance and respect for conflicting ideas and opinions, and the importance of understanding those who are different. This election may be a time to be able to explain, in a non-judgmental way, the point of view of the candidate you didn't vote for. Your children will learn about the viewpoints of both parties, and clearly a whole lot more.