Why we need to talk about politics with our kids

For the record, I’m voting Labour. There are many reasons for this – which I won’t go into here – but the main reason is that I believe the NHS, Education and some of the most vulnerable in our society are simply not safe in the hands of the Tories. So that’s that. At the ages of six and two years old my girls are too young to really grasp the magnitude of that last sentence, but it doesn’t mean I don’t discuss politics – or at least the ideas around politics – with them every single day.

I’ve seen loads of Facebook statuses recently calling for a cull on all political “rants”. “Don’t share your political views here! This is not the place!” people cry. “Let’s all just be quiet and get along!” they shout. “I’m so BORED of politics!” they moan. But the thing is, politics is EVERYTHING. It’s how our kids’ schools are run, it’s the very lessons they learn every day in school, it’s the hospitals, the roads, your pensions, my mortgage…. and for THIS reason I want my kids to understand, from an early age that they HAVE A SAY in this stuff, if they VOTE

After Brexit, people were wounded and sore. I was one of those people. I was tired, demotivated and disillusioned. I felt cut adrift from some of the people I genuinely care about as friends and family members, because they voted a different way. I vowed never to discuss politics openly again – at least not with people who I know won’t share my views. But what’s the point of that? It’s GOOD to discuss things, because it opens your mind to other ways of thinking.

And this is the same with our kids. If we wrap them up in a bubble of ignorance we’re not doing them any favours. They have opinions too. Sure, they might not care about Theresa May’s policies or give a toss about whether Jeremy Corbyn is the right man for the Labour leadership, but they have ideas about the things these people in charge make decisions on.

My six year old, for example, really cares about the environment. She’s horrified that big companies are allowed to do things that actively damage the environment. The thought that Father Christmas might have to find a new home because the North Pole is melting is genuinely alarming for her – not least the fact she might never see some of her favourite animals in the wild because they’ll all be “egg-stict”.

She understands that if she cares about these things, she must use her vote when she’s older to have a voice and a say in them. While the complexities of the latest Trump climate change disaster are beyond her, for example, she knows that he’s made some “bad decisions” which will ultimately be very dangerous for the planet. She knows that Donald Trump is “in charge of America” and that he is “in charge” because people voted for him.

I’m not suggesting we all turn our kids into avid watchers of Question Time. But, by talking about the big ideas around politics (and the little ones too) in a way that our children understand, we’re giving them a chance to become active and engaged adults who will ultimately get a say in how their country is run when they’re old enough to vote. How can this ever be a bad thing? 

 

Comments

  1. says

    I don’t understand people who get annoyed by politics on Facebook. In the run up to an election, isn’t it everybody’s responsibility to make sure they’re informed and have thought through the various options? How better to think through all sides than discussing it with people whose opinions differ from our own? I saw a lot of “politics = YAWN!” comments in the run up to the Scottish Referendum and was baffled – when would we ever be making such a big decision again?!

    As for talking about it with kids, I agree, but am basking in my only-just-two-year-old being a little too young for me to have to think about it! I do remember being scared that we were all about to be bombed by (probably) America or (possibly) Russia when I was little, though, so I’ll be very careful about what sources of news she’ll be exposed to.

    • says

      Re. the Facebook thing, I agree. I guess politics can make people feel uncomfortable, as if it’s a dirty or uncouth thing to talk about, when the reality is political decisions affect every element of our daily lives and our children’s futures!

  2. says

    No I’m with you on this one Molly. We’ve always discussed politics around the children. It was never a conscious decision as such we’re just quite a political family I guess and these conversations have always been a part of family life (around the dinner table mostly it has to be said!) But I completely agree that our children shouldn’t be brought up in a bubble. My eldest two are now 17 and 19 and ridiculously switched on to the world that they live in – much more than I ever was at their age! My daughter at 17 is desperate to vote but just misses out by weeks this time and is gutted. My son has already voted in previous local elections and in the EU referendum last year and will be voting in the general election next week. It makes me so sad when I read about young people not caring about politics. I definitely think this starts at home and the younger the better.

    • says

      I totally agree. Your children sound like active and engaged young adults – I hope my girls grow up to be this interested when they’re older. If they do then I’ll consider myself to have done a good job!

  3. says

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all to talk and provide unbiased information to children so they can grasp and understand what is happening and how it affects their future. I have to say this elections in terms of social media has got a bit nasty lately and it is sad seeing friends and family fall out over difference of opinion – what happened to respecting each others views because diversity is what makes the world a great place so I also try and install that in my kids as well.

    Great post Molly

    Laura x

    • says

      It’s such a shame when things get nasty, but I guess it just shows how passionately people feel about the issues. I’d rather passion over apathy any day. But I agree, it’s important to teach about respect too. Without that how can we ever really hear the other side of the argument? x

    • says

      I’m taking my eldest along this time too. I think it’s great for them to see the democratic process in action – I remember my parents voting when I was a kid and being excited to vote myself when I was older!

  4. Ma says

    This is a brilliant timely post Molly. Ken Loach was telling everyone in his recent lecture/discussion at Hay on Wye Festival to keep dialogue open. We should be questioning why so few hold so much of the country’s capital, why huge numbers of our population are living in poverty and why scurvy and rickets are re-emerging in children. Politics is everywhere in our books, theatre and films; boring it is not, it’s life. Love, ma x

  5. Ma says

    And don’t forget your buggy was covered in NUT stickers and support the miner’s stickers. You might not have understood why you were marching against the BOMB but you enjoyed making up a dance and singing…discussion came later. Politics impacts on children. We should talk about it. x

  6. Kate says

    We don’t watch lots of political things on telly but our kids do understand about it and we talk about it to them. I feel it’s important to make them understand that it’s important to vote and to understand what’s going on, even if not fully.

    Case in point – I was on Facebook last night and in a local FB group, a woman actually posted to ask why on her postal vote ballot paper, the names Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn weren’t there and therefore who was she supposed to vote for? She also asked if this was “different to the ones we had last month” and whether it would affect the council. I was completely gobsmacked. My kids understand more about politics than her! Needless to say, after a little while, the thread disappeared.

    So many people say “politics is not relevant to me, it’s just people fighting amongst themselves” but it affects EVERYTHING. I’d really love for voting to be made compulsory. I’ve always voted, even when I have known that my vote would not affect the outcome. I’m going to make sure my kids do too.

    • says

      Gosh that is worrying. It’s scary how much about our political system is still not common knowledge really isn’t it? I’d love for it to be a compulsory thing to vote – and for kids to learn more about it at school too.

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