Discussing the 2016 Election With Children

Child with US flag in hand. Source: DVIDSHUB, Wikimedia Commons.
Child with US flag in hand. Source: DVIDSHUB, Wikimedia Commons.

The recent election and its aftermath have stirred passionate discussion among adults--and even among kids. Many adults are wondering how to approach this topic with their children.

Not Too Young

You might be thinking: my child is too young to understand what's going on. Though they don't understand the details, kids are sensitive to emotions and strong words and are probably sensing that the election and other current events may be affecting the mood of the people around them.

In a recent “Fresh Air” interview on NPR, Terry Gross spoke with TV critic David Bianculli. When asked about the most poignant moment in television history, he pointed to a clip from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The episode addressed the violence and upsetting events being reported in the news at the time; Fred Rogers carefully spoke in terms appropriate for the preschool audience.

Bianculli explained, “It's unbelievable to me that - that Fred Rogers would be so sensitive that he would think that even preschoolers would be part of the family dynamic where everybody was upset. And, you know, maybe parents wouldn't bother to explain anything to kids that young. But Fred Rogers thought they needed it. But that's just so unexpected to me, and I can't imagine any children's television program today daring to do that.”

Books to Begin a Conversation

The Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC) just released a book list titled “Unity. Kindness. Peace.” Though geared for the young--age preschool to elementary school age--these books have powerful messages of empathy, a quality that is never too early to instill in a child. These stories make excellent conversation starters.

Check your local library for these books. Staff have also thoughtfully put together book displays in many library branches and librarians are always on hand to help you choose books that are just right for your family.

Resources for Teachers

Other resource for discussing the recent election have been gathered by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Their list, Teaching Tolerance Election 2016 Resources was created in response to teachers seeking effective ways to discuss the 2016 Election in their classrooms. Included are a variety of lesson plans, focusing on “help[ing] students recognize and respond to bias against immigrants, Muslims and Sikhs.”

Have you already had a discussion with your child or children? Share your approach in the comments below.

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