My first memory of politics was seeing voters file through my elementary school to vote. In the classrooms, we had our own chance to vote, but I didn’t realize that my vote didn’t actually count until 3rd or 4th grade. And that must be the time children become curious about politics, as I have been fielding questions from my own 4th grader about tomorrow’s election.
Last week she asked me who I thought was going to win the election. When I told her I wasn’t sure, that the race was close, she surprised me with her response.
“Well, I hope you don’t vote for Obama, Mom. He’s going to raise our taxes.”
First of all, I’m not certain that she even knows what taxes are, but really I was surprised at her new political interest. I asked where she was getting her political education. It turns out that a boy at school has been sharing his thoughts with his classmates. No doubt, when I say “his thoughts”, I mean he is repeating what he has heard from his parents.
My husband and I both sit on the same side of the political spectrum – much to my grandmother’s dismay. We don’t typically have political conversations, but when we do, it is even rarer that our children are present. Since we haven’t had television for more than a year, those obnoxious political ads don’t start conversations at our house either.
All of this has started me wondering; how much should we talk to our children about politics?
If you’ve ever read my posts before, you know I am full of strong opinions. I have also been a huge talk radio junkie since high school. I know, that sounds nerdy. Here’s the big question: Should I be indoctrinating my children into my political party?
Do I want them to share my political views? Of course I do, but not because it’s what I think. I want them to truly understand the issues and make a decision for themselves. I’m sure they’ll change their mind more than a few times before their even old enough to vote.
What is the proper age to start teaching children the different issues that affect our nation and world? Will I scare my 9-year-old when I talk about Benghazi or the war? Will I somehow teach her that debt is okay when I discuss the national deficit?
I feel lost as a parent when it comes to politics.
Maybe we could discuss the pros and cons of Obamacare at the dinner table. Perhaps there’s a book out there I could read to them at bed time. No, that would likely end with them having nightmares.
Perhaps, I’ll do what my dad did. He encouraged us to be curious, to learn about the issues. He made himself available to discuss politics, even though there was a time we didn’t agree. He answered questions without trying to convert us to one specific party.
Maybe politics in parenting is like anything else. We just have to make ourselves available and be patient when they make the wrong choices.
Cat Koehler is married with two children. She works full time. Read her Mondays on momaha.com
When did you start teaching your children about politics?
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