Politics and young children

Yesterday our nation experienced an election that rocked its people. It shook things up. By the end of the evening, some were pleased with the results and others found themselves speechless and devastated.

This morning I shared this piece. I heard today that some were surprised or a little put off by the piece, so I think it's important that I ellaborate on why I believe the piece is important to read and consider. The following post is a deeper explination of why we must know "What Do We Tell the Children?"!

I witness in my life parents of young children intending to remain informed and speak up for the choices they feel best. I also see those same parents untintentionally passing the weight of the politics on to their children. This concerns me for those children.

The piece I shared this morning (linked above) is entitled, "What Do We Tell The Children?" While I believe young children should NOT be burdened with the stress that is politics, the reality is that our children HAVE been burdened. They do not understand. They are trying to figure this all out. They are afraid. So YES...we must know WHAT to tell the children. We must know how to model and speak love so that when our children come up against fear and hatred (be it their own or that of others), they are able to find peace and act in love and peace. 

Let me give you a little insight that comes directly from our own program, which is filled with children of loving, intelligent, peace-wishing adults (meaning they aren't hate-filled, fear-mongering, horrible people).

Yesterday in our program several children were very clearly aware that election day was a BIG deal. We heard all about it. We know who many of our preschool parents voted for (remember...children tell all...we've often even heard about what underwear preschool parents wear and some mothers' bra-wearing choices).

We heard that _______ is mean.

We heard that _______ is rude.

We heard that _______ called ________ a liar.

When young children have differing ideas about what is true, they KNOW with absolute certainty that their belief is RIGHT...why? "Because mom saw on TV!"

We had a four year old girl telling other children that "bad things will happen if ______ becomes president." When asked by a teacher what bad things she expected would happen her response was, "I don't know." She carried fear clearly passed on to her by someone in her life, but not even a simple understanding of why.

One little boy was absolutely consumed with the election yesterday, trying everything he could to understand the whole ordeal. He asked every adult he could make contact with who they voted for. His stress over the issue meant that he needed to converse with everyone to try to figure out how this whole election thing works. 

Do you understand how stressfull... how absolutely scary this all is to a young child?! This is why it is critical that we do our best to be aware of the potential stress our children may carry.

Our children are surrounded by people with strong opinions, and often those opinions have very strong fears attached. The people sharing these fears could be: 




Extended family...


Even very young children are taking on this stress/fear/anxiety.

When you converse with your friends about your political concerns...

when you read articles and watch debates that worry you...

when you commiserate with your friends and family over your fears of the ramifications of political decisions...

Your child is hearing it all!

I've heard the argument "I don't discuss politics with my child." Be careful...your child is perceptive. You are being watched and listened to even when you don't realize that you are. 

In a piece about "Teaching the 2016 Election" put out by the Southern Poverty Law Center, we learned weeks ago that

Every four years, teachers in the United States use the presidential election to impart valuable lessons to students about the electoral process, democracy, government and the responsibilities of citizenship.

But, for students and teachers alike, this year’s primary season is starkly different from any in recent memory. The results of an online survey conducted by Teaching Tolerancesuggest that the campaign is having a profoundly negative effect on children and classrooms.

It’s producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. Many students worry about being deported.

Other students have been emboldened by the divisive, often juvenile rhetoric in the campaign. Teachers have noted an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail.

Educators are perplexed and conflicted about what to do. They report being stymied by the need to remain nonpartisan but disturbed by the anxiety in their classrooms and the lessons that children may be absorbing from this campaign.

See here for full article.

So yes...our children need to hear our voices. They need to see us act on love. They need to hear our words of peace. They need to know that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we love them, support them, and will do all it takes to keep them safe.

NO...don't wake your young child up and have a sit-down heart-to-heart about politics, but DO be very aware of your child's potential fears and needs surrounding the issue. While you may or may not have started the fear yourself it also may or may not be there. Listen and watch so as to know whether fear or stress is there. 

Please stop unintentionally passing political stress on to your young children. And if your child is already found to be in a place of awareness that likely causes fear, please provide healthy conversation for them as in the article at the top of this post that started this entire conversation!

Above all, model love for all. Model peace in your daily interactions with all people. Model hope and a passion for caring for others.

Please please be sure to pass on to your child the message of love and safety that they need to hear from the adults they trust the most!

Finally, I leave with you the message that was left to all of our preschool parents at the front door as they entered our school today...