“Clinton is a worthless liar. America needs a better president or our country is going to fall apart.”
The Sunday after Election Day in 1996, I listened to girls in a seventh-grade Sunday school class offer their commentary on the winner. A new parent who had only been teaching the class for a few weeks, I was ill prepared for a room full of terrified, politically minded tweens. Where was this coming from?
Decades later, I know the answer. Young children don’t get their opinions from CNN or Fox News. They don’t study exit polls or approval ratings. They do not learn fear and vitriol in social studies. They learn it from their parents.
Recognizing this sobering truth shifted the way my husband and I discussed politics with our own kids. We model a response for our children, and yet, we often underestimate how much they care. Developmentally speaking, children live “in the moment” and tend to overvalue the good and the bad they encounter.
If we act like the sky is falling because our candidate is not elected, our child will feel exaggerated fear. If we act like the kingdom of heaven has come in the form of our new president, our child will have an inflated sense of assurance. Having lived through multiple presidencies, a parent knows what a child doesn’t: that a president has only so much influence.
Even in a divisive, unusual, and high-stakes election, Christian parents can give their children space to process without the hype. They can talk calmly about the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and ask kids their opinions as age appropriateness allows. Young children may not have opinions on immigration or health care, but they will be able to discuss the importance of being kind, ...1