It is critical that we teach our children how to discuss politics with others – both inside and outside the family – in a loving, respectful way

Elections are just around the corner, so political discussions have likely taken place at your dinner table, family gatherings, and in your children’s classrooms. Even though many of our kids may not yet be old enough to vote, we need to equip them with foundational disciplines that will help them think deeply about their values and beliefs and be able to discuss politics.

From an early age, kids begin to take in the world around them and start developing their belief systems. Many of our beliefs — whether for good or bad — become framed as political issues. Parents set the culture in their home, which includes setting the tone for discussing politics. Whether you’re a news junkie or a news avoider, these five ways to discuss politics with your family will help your kids to develop their beliefs, think about current issues, and interact with others lovingly and respectfully.

Teach Your Children to…

1. Be Caring (Asset #26)

Care is a key ingredient for building relationships. Through humility, kids learn to see and appreciate other people genuinely. Humble people are loving people, and loving people are relational and influential. Humility is essential for discussing politics lovingly and respectfully.

Being caring helps us see political conversations as invitations to learn about other people — what they think, how they see the world, and why they believe what they do. Caring people ask questions and seek to know the other person out of care and concern.

As a parent, one way to model caring to our children is by listening. Active listening is an excellent way to understand another person’s perspective, thoughts, and beliefs. Discussing politics is not always about sharing the same ideas and opinions as another person, but it is about showing respect. Your children will observe how you listen to people who may not share the same beliefs and political stance, and they will learn by your example.

2. Learn to See Differences in People/Culture (Asset #34: Cultural Competence)

Our kids must learn discernment when it comes to consuming news, media, and what others say when they discuss politics. Kids must learn to sift through facts, opinions, and popular thought as they develop the foundations of their beliefs.

Parents and kids alike need to be diligent in testing every piece of information that we see or hear against their values and those they know to be true. Doing this will help our families keep a positive perspective on political issues and will guard our hearts.

Remember to seek wisdom when learning about current political issues. Teach your kids early what it means to have beliefs and discuss how they drive each of our thoughts and actions. Discuss the beliefs and values that you have in your family and why you see them as necessary. Do the members of your family have different perspectives on these beliefs? Remember to actively listen, model respect, and discover the other person’s point of view.

3. Reflect

Encourage your children to think at a deeper level about political issues. Reflect on thoughts and actions. Recognize that they can reflect what is going on in the depths of our souls. At an appropriate age level, discuss politics and political issues with your kids. Discuss why they are important and how they stack up against the values in your home. Have open and respectful conversations about the actual issues and why people may feel strongly about certain ones. Reflect on the issues as a family.

4. Respond

Political issues can quickly divide a home, a friendship, a community, and a nation. Reacting to one’s political beliefs does not help; however, responding can.

Relationships grow and deepen when both parties listen and try to understand one another. The truth is, when discussing politics, you can rarely convince another person to believe what you believe. However, our kids need to learn how to articulate what they think and why. Teach your kids that caring will positively drive their responses and help prevent their emotions from taking them for a ride. As parents, we must model this for our kids. If they see us reacting to others in heated, emotional, or angry ways, they will be more likely to respond the same way in their discussions.

There are undoubtedly critical issues to discuss, but if we fall into the trap of reacting rather than responding (Asset #35: Resistance Skills), it can send us spiraling down the path where we begin to argue about everything.

Questions such as “Help me to understand why you believe that?” can break down barriers. You can learn a lot about a person when you talk about their political point of view.

5. Stand

What things do you physically tend to stand for? Is it a standing ovation at a theatrical or musical performance? Or do you jump to your feet when your team scores a goal? Do you rise to your feet at a wedding when the bride walks down the aisle? What other things does your family stand for?

The word “stand” can be used in different contexts. Standing is one way for us to show respect, reverence, admiration, relational interest, or conviction.

What are you firmly standing for out of conviction or because of your beliefs? What we stand for with conviction tends to have deep roots that continually grow, like a tree. It’s important to realize that when you try to convince others to think like you, you may be trying to uproot a deeply rooted tree. Teach your kids how to stand with respect and genuine care for those around them.