(This post first appeared on the Christian Children’s Authors blog in Nov. 2016. I thought it might be a good reminder for this Inauguration Day.)
First, let me be clear, I hate political rants. This post is not one of them. It doesn’t raise one party over another or cheer one candidate and boo another. It is a guide for how to help your children navigate this emotional time in our country.
Think back to your childhood. What emotions come to mind? As I reminisce on mine, I see days of happy play with my siblings. Neighbors and church members looked out for one another and people lived relatively peacefully together.
But wait a minute. I grew up in the 1960s and 70s. Those were tumultuous times in our country’s history. The controversial and divisive Viet Nam war was in full swing. Two Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated. President Nixon resigned to avoid almost certain impeachment in 1974.
Yet, in my mind, these were happy, carefree days. Why? Because I was a child who was blessed to have parents and grandparents who didn’t let me bear the burden of adult problems. I fear that is something we’ve lost in today’s society. We sometimes think our children should be part of the political and social climate because it educates them to be good citizens.
You know how kids learn to be good citizens? By feeling safe and secure in their little world, even if the larger world around them is falling apart. They learn by seeing their parents act like good sports, whether their candidate wins or loses. These elections are more than just choosing our country’s leadership. They teach our children good (or bad) character, which in turn, instructs them how to lead others.
May I suggest we let our children be children? Let’s not rob them of their carefree childhoods for the sake of the political machine. I offer these five ideas to help you do that, in an election season or not.
- Don’t allow young children to watch the news. And by young children, I mean under the age of at least ten. It’s far too scary in the way it’s delivered. If they must know about a particular news story, talk to them about it in a way they can understand and feel safe.
- Don’t let your children use social media. It’s unfiltered, often hateful, and usually biased. My personal belief is that children under the age of thirteen (at the minimum) should not have social media accounts.
- Don’t let your children watch political debates. They aren’t old enough to understand the issues well enough to hear the full message of what’s said. Chances are, they’ll only hear the things that worry them.
- Talk to your children about issues they may hear from others. Let them know your views on them and why you believe the way you do. Point them to the Bible, and what it says about such issues. Encourage them to ask you about things they hear. Keep communication open.
- Pray with your child for our country and its leaders. This applies whether you agree or disagree with who’s in office. Our leaders need God’s guidance to rule fairly and with wisdom, from the federal to your local governments.
If we were to sit a crowd of Americans down in a room together, we wouldn’t be able to tell who was Republican or Democrat just by looking at them. We couldn’t tell what their hopes and dreams are for their country or in their personal lives. They may differ vastly from our own views, but we wouldn’t know. We still could enjoy good conversation and laughter with them.
We have so much more in common with other Americans than we do differences. We want peace. We want equality. We love our children and want them to be well educated. We want financial stability. We want our Constitutional freedoms and rights. We want strong, honest leadership. We want our country to be safe and well protected. We want to be able to pursue our dreams.
Can we focus on those commonalities rather than our differences? Can we allow others to differ from us without disrespecting them? If we do, healing will begin. We’ll see each other as teammates instead of adversaries.
Above all, our children won’t live in fear. They won’t learn to disrespect people who hold different views. They’ll get back the carefree childhoods every child deserves.
Come on, America. Let’s come together.