So, I’ve allowed another chunk of time pass since my last blog. I dislike telling you that I’ve been busy. I had an English teacher in high school who refused to accept the word “nice” on any written piece, even creative writing. “Nice,” she said, means nothing. A filler word.
“Busy,” to me, is the 40-year-old version of the 16-year-old’s use of “nice.” It doesn’t mean much. Everything, these days, is busy, is it not? Busy looking at colleges; busy cleaning out closets; busy with houseguests; busy driving kids to and fro; busy doing the dishes; busy suffering from a touch of election anxiety.
I admit it. Elections tear me apart. My son fusses at me, “stop reading the news, then, Mom!” My husband reassures me (a lot). My daughter encourages me to go on (another) walk. Move. Get out of the house. But I still obsess.
And when I had a friend ask me the other day, in regards to the election, “how do I explain this to him?” (him being her 7-year-old child), I thought I needed to attempt a reply.
But the short answer is: I don’t know.
As we all know, there has never been such a circus act of an election – in modern times, anyway. I don’t have past elections to help steer this parenting ship. But, you know me, I always have an opinion, so here goes nothin’.
~ Yes, talk to your kids. But perhaps more importantly? Listen. Especially with the younger ones. How much explaining and talking you need to provide can be gleaned through listening to their stories, concerns, and questions. It is true, children pick up all kinds of information – in varying degrees of accuracy – at school (and elsewhere); you might be able to gage what you want and need to talk with your children about by what is already on their minds.
~ Remember they’re kids. Although there are always exceptions, most children do not cling to a topic as long as we adults do. I may refresh my news feed too often and allow myself to be haunted by certain events, but I’ve got a 42-year-old brain inside my head and a whole bunch of life experience that makes me obsess about the election. Most children move from one topic to another fairly quickly. Sometimes we adults wring our hands over a difficult conversation with our young children, only to realize it wasn’t so bad. After a serious talk, we might discuss our favorite flavor of ice cream, if Santa celebrates Thanksgiving or not, and all the people you know who are double-jointed. Kids have a way of keeping conversations age-appropriate. Go with it.
~ Provide a home life that is as consistent and comforting as possible. I’m in no position to tell you how; and Lord knows, I’ve fallen short in this area many, many times. But, I do know that we are all at our best in my family (even now when my kids are older, but especially when they were in elementary school) when we have established routines (like dinner time and bedtime) and enough time to talk, reflect, and share.
Of course, such routines, in my opinion, should always include time to read aloud. There is nothing quite so comforting than reading together a book or two at the day’s end, and if your family is feeling a little election stress, see about lowering your blood pressure by reading a book to your kiddo.
Any book will do! Read something you’ll both enjoy! But, yes, there are a handful of books that attempt to explain the election process to children, and certainly such titles are more than apropos.
My daughter and I recently had the pleasure of hearing Tim Weiner speak about his book, One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon. During the Q and A session at the end of his talk, a young adult asked him how a non-voting teen can work to become politically active. He answer was simple and right up my alley: read. Read, read, read.
Want to help your child understand why electing a president so important? Read up on our important country! Most libraries have some non-fiction books about all kinds of American symbols, monuments, documents, parks, and states. Find out more about the White House, the American Flag, the Statue of Liberty, or the 50 states! As long as you’re having election talk, discover together more information about the good ol’ U. S. of A.
Want to help your child realize what a president does and who a president can be? Read more about the people who have run for office. Understating elections is actually pretty dry stuff; it is the people who run for office that make the elections fascinating, right? Grab some biographies. George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, or Jimmy Carter. Read about those who ran for president, winners and losers, both. I guarantee you, you might learn as much as your child!
Want to help your child comprehend why this election is so packed with emotion? Read up on Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, or Elizabeth Cady Stanton. You might be surprised to discover that many young children are positively dumbfounded when you tell them that, not so long ago, only men could vote.
(It’s no secret that I’m particularly fascinated by both Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, two bright and vivacious women instrumental in insisting on women’s right to vote. On a recent college-hunting trip to Rochester (brrrrrr!) for our son, my family swung by Susan B. Anthony’s grave and quite solemnly offered our thanks.)
Want to help your child make sense of the world? Read.
And never stop.
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