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Parenting During a Crazy Election Season: Three Tips to Keep You Sane

Having levelheaded, respectful political debates with our kids may seem impossible, but they can be a valuable lesson in fairness and composure.
Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
October 28, 2016
Minute Read

Your college student arrives home for fall break and announces at the dinner table that she’s voting for Hillary because she wants to see the first woman president elected. She has no idea what Hillary’s plans are or about her previous political resume. She wants Hillary because she can’t stand Donald Trump.

The two of you begin to argue and your daughter runs up to her room and slams the door calling you a bigot. What should you do?

Or, your eleventh grader comes home from school and tells you that you must absolutely not vote for Donald Trump because he hates Mexicans, women and refugees. If you do vote for him, your son says that he won’t speak to you for a week. What do you say to him?

Many parents find themselves in the midst of an election firestorm, particularly when it comes to speaking to their kids about the election. It appears that no one can win an argument because the truth is, the contest has so drastically veered from policy, economic or social issues that each of us has a really hard time talking to our kids, or anyone, about them. We too fall into the trap of repeating what the media outlets banter about—the candidate’s personalities and behavior. And that has become, well, gutter talk.

While we have no influence over what the media discusses, we can control the talk in our homes.

This has been the most volatile, disturbing election in my lifetime, and I am determined to bring a bit of sanity to the discussions I have surrounding the election. I encourage you to do the same, especially if you have teens or young adults in your home.

Here are three tips to keep you calm and sane in political discussions with your kids:

Refuse to talk about Hillary or Donald’s personalities.

This is hard because each has a history of doing bad things, but avoid discussing those with your kids if you can. Steer the conversation away from personality traits and remind your kids that voting for a person because of gender, race or personality is not healthy. They must consider the candidate’s policies (if they can find out about those policies).

Use this as an opportunity to educate younger folks about the differences between Republican and Democratic views on real issues.

Talk to your kids about governmental control and involvement, economic policy differences, views on social issues like abortion and immigration, and how each would choose a Supreme Court Justice and why. Young people need to know why we have two distinct parties in the U.S.

Perhaps even take the time to visit a website such as with your kids, which puts the focus squarely on the issues, and helps you identify which candidate you most align with, based on what is most important to you. This is a great opportunity to talk with them about what is important to them, as well.

The election is an opportunity to talk with your kids about the issues most important to you. 

Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, make your case to your kids. Make sure they know why you’ve chosen the party that you have.

Be positive. Explain to them why we have a great political system in the U.S.

Fortunately, presidents have limited power because of the three branches of government. Remind them that we have a good system and it should never be changed. Another type of political system like communism or socialism would give far too much power to leaders and this is never a good thing, especially when the leaders running for office have the lowest favorability records in history.

We will make it through this election season, and so will your kids. Keep the conversations focused on what they need to be focused on: the issues, not the personalities.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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