I’d like to go ahead and add my disclaimer now and state that not all politicians run negative campaigns and not all politicians stretch the truth for their own political gain. There are good men and women running for office who, rather than discredit their opponents, actually run on their own merits.
Ever since I can remember, political campaigns have emphasized how awful the country, state, county or city will be if the other party gets (or remains in) control. But when it is all said and done, we wake up the next morning after the election, still Americans.
With all of the negative campaigning, what is a parent to do?
The very first thing that we have to do as parents is to educate ourselves on the facts.
If we aren’t able to sort out the facts from the fiction, there is no way that we can teach our children to do the same thing. My 10-year-old daughter told me about a political discussion she was having at school and how she heard that Mitt Romney wanted to tax poor people so the rich could get richer. It was the opportune moment to have a discussion about Romney’s platform and that she couldn’t believe everything she heard. She’s at the formidable age where children listen to their peers, who, at that age, are usually not well-versed on political platforms (other than what they hear from their own parents). We also talked about how Governor Romney’s platform differed from President Obama’s and what I felt were the good things and the bad things in each.
The second thing we have to do as parents is share our political beliefs with our children.
In our house, my wife and I don’t simply share our own personal views on politics with our children, we also share the counter-argument. It’s important for children to hear both sides and why, as parents, we take a particular side on an issue. It makes for some great conversation.
Don’t get angry at your child if they don’t agree with you!
The worst thing you can do is to get angry at your child if they share a different political viewpoint. Children ages 6-12 hear a lot of things and they’ll repeat those and form their own beliefs and opinions. If you are a Republican and you are really concerned that your 8-year-old voted for Obama in the classroom election, just remember that those school elections didn’t count. And if you are a Democrat and you are concerned that your 8-year-old voted for Romney, the same rule applies. At this stage in the game, it isn’t as important who they voted for, but that they actually participated in the process. (Just a note: parents of both of these children still have 10 years to get the kids to see things their way before they are of voting age.)
We teach our children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol at an early age, so why not teach them about the importance of being an educated voter?