Talking to Your Children About Politics

stonehengeI try very hard to make sure that my children are aware of things going on in the world today. We don’t censor the news and we have a subscription to First News the children’s newspaper. I think its very important that they are not cushioned from the world around them and that they accept that good and bad things happen, its just life.

At the moment the over-riding theme of our discussions has been the General Election. Its the first time that the children are actually aware of the process, in the sense that they understand that it could have implications for them. Being the sort of woman that I am, they have all accompanied me on trips to the ballot box, but I don’t think they have ever fully understood or taken an interest in the implications of what could happen as a result of different options, until now.

In our household the idea of educating the children about the different choices has been interesting and a bit of a challenge. The temptation is to colour the descriptions of each party with our own political preferences. I hope that I have been reasonably restrained, although lets face it, in a household that is engaged in democracy and debate on all things from socks to dinner, this is not really going to happen. As a result I’ve tried to simplify the interests of each party: Greens- the environment e.g renewable energy, recycling; Labour (Red) Social justice issues e.g helping the poor; Conservative (Blue) the economy and its importance for business.

I was discussing this with a friend of mine and she took a brilliant approach to the discussions; she asked her children to think of the things which really mattered to them and then related them to the different parties. This provided a gateway for discussions based around their interests and I think was possibly a way of introducing less bias into discussions.

I think its also useful to have a mini vote at home, this may demonstrate that everyone thinks differently and values different things. For Year 3 and above it could be a fun summer holiday activity to get them to write the aims of their own party and pitch it to you and then have a family vote.

I’m quite proud to say that at the moment my children seem to favour the parties with keen interests in social justice and I’m sure that this is both nature and nurture. However, it has made discussing the results of the General Election 2015 quite tricky because they are finding it difficult to understand that some people may not consider these ideas as important as others in the scheme of things. These are quite adult concepts which are hard to simplify into quite black and white thinking.

I am wondering if I should shelter the children from some of the austerity measures, particularly if some of the measures directly impact upon their peers from outside of school (which they will). I don’t want them to be too upset and I’m not sure that it would be a good idea for them to discuss these things with their peer group, particularly when we live in a Conservative stronghold. There again, perhaps seeing and hearing about austerity might spur them on to make a difference themselves in the future. I remember hearing Shami Chakrabarti being interviewed and she said that the fact that the news was constantly on in her household influenced where she is today.

It is my most sincere hope that I am bringing up children with empathy, social justice and a social conscience and that by exposing them to the daily life as reported in all areas of the news these things become part of normal life. It was my aim that by not sheltering them from the world they would become well rounded individuals. However, as a result of the election I am seriously considering censoring the news and the impact of this government longer term. How did it come to this?

I’d love to hear your experiences of talking to your children about politics and the election. I think its a very hard thing to get right and there are no cut and dried answers. Perhaps on reflection I should have given a little more thought about this when they were babies. In the meantime you may find this book recommended to me and all about the Human Rights Act, but presented in a very child friendly picture book format useful. Its a beautiful book which I wish I had come across earlier.

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