Conversations about current affairs and politics with Children
In today’s world, children are exposed to politics and current affairs more than ever before. They may see or hear about them on the news, on social media, or at school. As a parent or guardian, it’s important to discuss these topics with children in an age-appropriate way so they can understand the world around them and form their own opinion. The more children understand how the world works, the more engaged they are with it, and the more positive they feel about their community, society and country. It’s important to raise children to be active citizens and including them in discussions about politics and current affairs is a good way to start.
How to start
When talking to children about these subjects, it’s important to do so in an age-appropriate way. Children have short attention spans and too much information can be overwhelming. Focus on one or two topics at a time and make sure your child understands them before moving on to the next.
It’s essential to use language appropriate for your child’s age and understanding. Younger children will not understand complex political concepts, so it’s important to simplify your language and use examples they can relate to.
Children’s moral and cognitive development tends to be very black and white, so issues, where there isn’t an absolute right or wrong approach, can be difficult and confusing for young children and something to explore when children are older, around junior school age.
Children are curious and observant. They may ask difficult questions that can be hard to answer, but it’s important, to be honest and clear when talking about politics and current affairs. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it and look it up together. Don’t make up an answer or give false information.
Let your child lead. If they are asking questions, they deserve answers. You’ll be able to gauge when they have had enough; they may change the topic or ask what’s for tea, which is a sign they feel you have given them sufficient information. It’s a good idea to check in with them the next day to ask if they have any more questions or thoughts about the subject. This will help reinforce what they learned and encourage them to continue to think critically about what you discussed.
Make it relevant
Young children relate better to things that are relevant to them, for example, class representatives at school or how councils deal with issues in the area such as plans for the local park.
As children get older and are able to understand current affairs on a bigger scale, start by keeping conversations positive and don’t dwell on negative or controversial topics.
Give them examples of how politics and current affairs can make a difference in people’s lives; for instance, how laws have been changed to help protect the environment or how people have come together to help others during times of crisis.
To help children learn to think critically about issues, asking them questions like these may be a good place to start;
- What rules do you think are important?
- What would you do if you were in charge?
- Why do you think this person would be a good leader?
There are many ways you can introduce the idea of democracy to your child. Holding regular family meetings to discuss and vote on issues such as house rules, pocket money, holiday plans etc, will help children understand the democratic process, make them feel listened to, and teach them that everyone’s opinion is valuable.
Discussion prompt cards are a great early introduction to debating issues. The cards give ideas on topics that can be discussed as a family. Different members of the family are likely to suggest different solutions to each scenario, helping children to understand that making decisions is not always easy.
If there is a general or local election taking place, take your child to the polling station with you on election day to show democracy in action. They can see how the voting process works, and you can also explain how in many parts of the world people don’t have the right to vote or have a say in who runs the country for us.
What not to say
It’s a good idea to keep adult discussions about these topics private. Passionate views can confuse and upset a child if they don’t understand why mummy or daddy is upset and angry. Conversations that happen in front of a child that doesn’t involve the child can be scary, so try and hold the conversation in a way that the child could join in with if they wanted to.
However, it is important as children get older for them to understand that not everyone agrees with everything – you can disagree with someone but still love them, which is a very important lesson for children to learn.
It is also important to make it clear to your child that what you believe is your own opinion, but other people will have different opinions. Presenting both sides of the issue is crucial for children to learn how to think for themselves and make their own decisions. Similarly, children are entitled to their own opinions, and it’s important to respect them. Even if you don’t agree with them, listen and encourage them to express themselves which will help build their confidence and encourage them to think critically.
It can be hard to resist influencing your child but try not to lead them down a particular path.
The weight of the world
The war in Ukraine, Covid, and climate change. They are worrying topics for adults, so how have our children been feeling?
While they don’t need to know every detail about what is going on in the world, to pretend that everything is OK when they know differently sends mixed messages and can make children anxious. It’s possible to be honest and age-appropriate with your child at the same time.
By being open, calm and transparent, you are modelling how to deal with bad and worrying news. Make it clear that feeling worried about some things is normal and encourage them to talk to you when they feel that way. Put their concerns into perspective – while their fears are real, most of them are not an immediate danger to your child. Let them know that people are doing their best to keep us safe and that you, as a parent, are too.
For children who have access to the internet or their own television, encourage them not to look at the news too often. Instead, suggest looking at it together with you once or twice a week. There is a difference between being informed and being over-stimulated.
Talking about current affairs and politics will help to expand your child’s worldview, give them the confidence to form an opinion, and develop empathy for what others are experiencing.
Just remember to keep discussions simple and relatable, and be willing to address questions and concerns as they arise, giving reassurance when needed.
Engaging children in discussions about politics and current affairs is essential for their understanding of the world and their development as active citizens. By approaching these topics in an age-appropriate manner, parents and guardians can help children form their own opinions, think critically, and feel positive about their community and society.
It is important to simplify language, provide relatable examples, and be honest when answering their questions. Encouraging children to ask questions, leading by example, and introducing concepts like democracy further enhance their understanding.
Additionally, it’s crucial to respect differing opinions, present both sides of an issue, and teach children to think independently. By being open, and transparent, and addressing their concerns, parents can help alleviate anxieties and provide reassurance. Through these discussions, children can expand their worldviews, develop empathy, and become informed and engaged members of society.