Talking Politics With Your Young Children

I love the car. Ok, I have a serious love-hate relationship with the car. I dislike its gas-guzzling properties, but I love it for talking with my daughter. It’s the perfect conversation starter. Trapped in a confined space, you talk about all sorts of things that wouldn’t normally come up.

Today’s discussion was politics. Normally I don’t talk politics much. I grew up in a family where talking about politics was poor dinnertime conversation. I have deeply-held opinions on issues and I don’t keep them quiet either, but I rarely connect them to political parties, at least not in everyday conversation.

However, right now we’re in the middle of an election where I live. Although everyone seems to be talking politics, apparently my daughter hadn’t really noticed. Granted, she’s five. Granted, we don’t usually watch adult television programming. I’m sure that we’d mentioned it at some point. She’s certainly come with us to vote a number of times, and she knows it’s going to happen again soon. We’ve stressed to her that voting is important, but I guess she didn’t really understand what voting was for.

So I explained it to her, attempting to use kid-friendly language. That was hard. The idea of a political party based on a group of similar ideologies is a hard idea to get across to a five-year-old. So is the idea of candidacy and systems of regional political representation. Much of it went over her head, and she said so. I was a little dejected, but before I started to explain it all again, I paused.

I asked her what she thought should happen in our country. I asked her specifically about the categories that people address in debates, categories such as health care, the environment, jobs, and security. I mentioned each thing, and then I took a long pause. And she began to talk and talk. She told me all of her ideas about each topic, and many of them were quite well thought-out. I was impressed. Although the concepts behind how we elect our government might have been confusing to her at five, she certainly has opinions about how our country should be run. I plan to have more such conversations with her soon. Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two.

Do you ask your small children what they think about the political scene where you are? What do they say?