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?