It’s unfair for some people to insist that younger people keep their noses out of politics. For one thing, the politics that goes on today will affect the political landscape in the future. And another, more kids actually care about politics and what goes on in their country than most adults think.
When it becomes clear that your kid wants to learn more about politics, it’s best that they learn about it in a non-biased and educational way. They’ll learn it through the media, friends, school teachers, and other people who might share their opinion in their presence, but as their parent, it’s best to explain politics to your child with all the important facts present so that they can build their own educated opinion on it.
In a previous article, I wrote how to explain democratic vs. republican politics to a child. But how do you explain politics in general, and why should parents teach their kids about politics in the first place?
Why Should Children Learn About Politics
Nowadays, it’s difficult for children not to take notice of the political landscape in your country. They’ll see it on the news, they’ll see Tweets and posts about it online, and they’ll even see campaigns and banners outside their home. And even if it’s not political per se, if they’re researching on social and economic issues like the economy, health care, and international relations for the school, they’re bound to come across politically leaning takes on it.
The point is, your children will learn about politics sooner than you’d expect. As a parent, you can only influence your children so much on the opinions they will form, but talking to your children about these issues, how it will affect them, and how politics comes into play is important. Not only does it help develop their critical thinking skills (instead of just, say, accepting opinions as fact), but it clears up any misgivings they might initially have.
What Is the Government?
In my last article, I said that it was best to describe the government to children using simpler terms and examples that they could understand. For political ideologies like Republicans and Democrats, for example, I used the example of how money is managed between friends. But for a more general definition of the government, here’s a simpler example.
A government is like the parent of a family whose job it is to protect its children by providing everything they need. The children, in this case, are the citizens of the country. Like parents, the government needs to protect its citizens from threats from outside and inside the country. These can be outside threats like other countries trying to take advantage of them, or inside threats like robbers and swindlers.
As parents, however, there is no one right way to raise a child. Parents raise their children differently depending on how they see fit. In our own government, there are different groups of people who have different ideas on how to take care of the people, and this is where the conflict between political groups come into play. Republicans, for example, want a government that is more like a hands-off parent and allows their citizens more freedom and only intervenes when necessary. Democrats, on the other hand, want a government where a parent is more involved, especially for citizens who need more help.
Unlike a family though, the way these ideas of a government is decided is through the children, its people, voting on who gets to take control of the government.
Explaining Voting to Children
Unlike kings in the past, the power is in people’s hands to decide who gets to control the country. That’s why every few years, the people in the biggest positions in the government step down and let someone else in charge. Because every vote is important, the people who apply for these positions work to convince people that they are the right person for the job. Some people will disagree with them, but if enough people agree, then they will become in charge. It may get confusing to teach your children about the electoral college or the different aspects of voting in the country you live in, so tread carefully.
Is the Opposition Evil?
It’s important to teach your children that just because someone has a different opinion on some matters does not mean they are evil. For example, let’s say that you and your friends have $10 to spend on food. If there are 5 of you, some may argue that everyone should get a fair share and spend $2 each on food. Others, however, may argue that those who play games better deserve more money to spend on. Some may even argue that the youngest needs more money.
Regardless of which one you side with, no one is technically evil in this situation because they’re all just sharing opinions on how the money should be divided. It’s like this (but on a much bigger scale) in the government: generally speaking, people don’t enter the government thinking they’re the bad guy. If our country had unlimited resources, then there wouldn’t be a reason for us to fight over how money is handled. So, when politicians argue, they are doing so because they want what they think is best for their country.
While every now and then there will be a few politicians who care more about making money for themselves than the government, that’s not to say that everyone in the government is like that.
Remember: Stay Unbiased
You might have your own political opinions, and if your child seems to have different opinions than yours, keep your cool and talk it out. Some people are quick to get angry when faced with someone who has a different opinion. Show your children what it’s like to have a respectful conversation between people who do not share the same opinion.
When talking about politics to your children, you might want to get your children to believe what you do. However, it’s important to stay unbiased and give them an idea of how politics and the government works to help them be critical thinkers who form their own opinions on their own.