How to explain politics to your kids

Your Child and Teen
How to explain politics to your kids

Whatever your political beliefs, the tone of the election and of the political climate in this country continues to be divisive. Children are influenced by the same messages as adults are but may not fully understand what is going on. It is important for parents and supportive adults to talk openly with kids about current events.

As parents are working to manage their own feelings related to the election and politics in our country, American children are also affected by the same images, words and tone in our culture.

The tips below can be a helpful guide for how to approach conversations with your children about our current political climate.

  • Listen to your children’s concerns. What types of questions are they asking? What do they wonder about? By listening, we can help kids to process their thoughts out loud, and it helps parents to have a better sense of what their kids need.

  • Ask your children questions. Ask what they think about the election, about the outcome and how they are feeling.

  • Share your emotions. Odds are, your kids have already picked up how you’re feeling about the outcome of the election. Share with your kids what you think about the results and even if you’re having strong emotions, it can be helpful to share with your kids by modeling how one might talk about sadness, confusion, concern or excitement.

  • Explain by linking to something your kids are already familiar with. Depending on your kids’ developmental level, it can be helpful to link new information to concepts they already understand to promote learning. If your kids are asking, “What does the President do?” for example, you might explain using the analogy to a school principal. Checks and balances can also be explored by explaining how school principals can’t just do anything they want — that they have to answer to the kids, the parents, the school board, community and state.

  • Comfort your kids. Kids need to feel that they are safe. While it may be helpful to share how you are feeling, it may not be as helpful to take on a “doomsday” tone. Rather, comfort your kids, let them know they are safe.

  • Engage in the political process with your kids. It may be helpful to write a letter to a congressperson, draft a phone call script or volunteer. It may be therapeutic to think of a creative way to do something nice for someone else.