Friday, August 19, 2016

Where Do You Stand?

A Parent-Child Activity For Navigating an Election Cycle

Hello Moonlighters!  Tonight's activity is going to be a little different than our other ones, but stays true to our mission of helping to connect parents and children at bedtime through quiet, thoughtful activities.

We're going to go somewhere we had hoped we'd never have to go...

   But it's all around us these days.
      You simply can't escape it...
         and our kids are hearing things.

We're going to talk politics.
You didn't just say "politics" did you?

Wait!  Don't leave yet!


We promise to stay impartial.  (This isn't going to be easy.  We definitely have an opinion on this year's election and the candidates!)  We won't even use any names, ok?

I'm sick of politics!  Do I have to talk about it?


Well, it would certainly be a lot easier to ignore this and hope that after November, we can go back to our regular lives like none of this ever happened.  The problem is, it never really stops.  The minute this election ends, they'll already be talking about the next one.  There's always a another primary, midterm, or general election.  Whether it's national or local, the cycle continues.  But elections can be a confusing subject for children.  Every day we hear:

  • Offensive language
  • Name-calling
  • Accusations
  • Half truths
  • Outright lies
  • Racial tensions
  • Class wars

The list goes on; elections have it all!  And our kids are picking up on these things.  They are continually hearing people around them talk about the candidates and issues in very passionate ways.

On way we can help children interpret all the chaos around them and to navigate these issues later in life is to talk with them about where we stand on these sensitive issues.

Just the other day, our daughter said, "I hate <Candidate>.  <Candidate> is so stupid."  Hate and stupid are very strong words which we discourage in our house, but it was evident that she was feeling some strong emotions about the candidates and the election.  (She actually has some good reasons for her statement, but definitely does not understand everything that is going on.)

It's time to talk with our children about our values and let them know where we stand on the important issues.


So let's talk

Tonight's activity is very open ended, and it could span multiple nights if you want.  The goals is to take the time to talk very plainly about some of the core issues that an election can bring to the forefront of our (and our children's) minds.

Be sure to discuss the issues which:
  1. are child-lead.  If the issue hasn't come up yet with your child, maybe it's not the right time.
  2. you yourself have taken the time to consider from different perspectives.  Can you see the issues from both sides?  This will help children understand and become more empathetic.
  3. you feel your child is cognitively and emotionally ready to discuss.  Many children will not be ready for some of these topics.  Use your best judgement.
Here are some of the many issues from which to choose:

Wow that's some heavy stuff!

Example 1: On lying

In our house we make the truth a paramount issue.  Talk about what it means to you.  Give examples like this one:

You spent the afternoon with Daddy and had some ice cream.  When you came home, your younger sibling asked whether you had eaten any special treats.  We don't want the younger child to feel jealous and start begging for ice cream too.  It would be easy enough to lie and say "No" to avoid the battle.  Or should we tell the truth, even when it's not convenient?
Talk to your child about scenarios like these and come to an understanding about the importance of telling the truth, the loss of trust when lying occurs, and when and whether (if at all) it's OK to lie sometimes.

Here's a great video from the Rio Olympics in which a player gives up a point by telling his opponent to challenge the call.  He demonstrated great honesty and sportsmanship, even when it wasn't convenient for him.

Does this kind of honesty matter to you?

Example 2: On Matters of Race

Talk to your children about how you feel about diversity and discrimination.  If you're not a minority, talk about what you believe your responsibilities are in combating racism.  Here is a great article on how and why to talk to your kids about race.

Example 3: On the Environment

Teaching children the science of climate change can be a daunting task.  Instead, focus on what's important to you.  Do you care about the preservation of wild places like national parks?  What about clean air and water?  Is it important for you and your family to connect with nature?

Ask your child what he/she thinks about the earth and what things he/she thinks are important to conserve.  Talk about what you can do at home that can make a difference in the environment.

Final Thoughts

Don't forget to use active listening techniques when talking to your kids.  This isn't meant to be a lecture time, but rather a conversation (one of many) to help them better understand the world around them and all of the complex issues at play.  Feel free to present opposing ideas, even if you don't agree with all of them, but let them know how you feel.  You may even discover you and your child don't agree- that's ok!  Let your child know that our world is made better by diverse people and ideas.  Even when we disagree, we usually find that people come from a good place and have good intentions.  People aren't always one thing, good or bad.  They are set of choices they make.

The best way we can guide our children is through our own actions.  How will you treat the earth?  How do you treat yourself?  How will you treat those around you who are both the same as and different from you?  This is what our children will use as an example.

We'd love to hear from you on Twitter or Facebook!  Tell us about the issues that matter to your family!

As always, enjoy these special moments with your child and... mind the nap!


  1. Great ideas and very timely. I'll be sure to spread the word on the great blog!

  2. Great and very important topic. Thanks for sharing.