Know what to say to your kids about the election?

Parents need to be aware that their kids are listening

A playground (Public Domain Photos, Peter Griffin)
A playground (Public Domain Photos, Peter Griffin)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — If the 2016 presidential campaign was a movie, it would have an R-rating.

But your kids are watching. Depending on their age and exposure to debates and ads, your kids may have questions, concerns or even anxiety.

How do you talk to your kids about this most unusual of elections?

Mike Buys, a marriage and family therapist with the Vancouver Counseling Group, November 7, 2016 (KOIN)
Mike Buys, a marriage and family therapist with the Vancouver Counseling Group, November 7, 2016 (KOIN)

Mike Buys, a marriage and family therapist with the Vancouver Counseling Group, said offering a child some perspective they can relate to can help.

“What we’re seeing is this really condensed version of people sharing their opinions, and unfortunately there’s not a lot of excuses right now for the way people are acting and treating each other,” Buys told KOIN 6 News.

He likened it to playing kickball on the playground. “People get really excited, really passionate, trash talk and say stuff. That’s kind of happening right now.”

Parents need to be aware that their kids are listening, not just to the candidates but to them.

“The younger the age, it really depends on what their home environment is bringing them and what’s going on at school, but particularly what are they hearing their parents saying,” he said.

Kids who hear negative ads need to understand that they’re “hearing a snapshot in time.”

“Have you ever had a class picture taken of you that just looked really bad?” Buys said. “That’s not really what you look like, right? That’s what we’re seeing. We’re seeing a really horrible class picture of Hillary and Donald.”

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (2015, 2016, AP)
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (2015, 2016, AP)
Dolores Fisher in a Vancouver playground, Novembeer 7, 2016 (KOIN)
Dolores Fisher in a Vancouver playground, November 7, 2016 (KOIN)

The older the kids, though, the more they’re going to be able to talk about the campaign and the issues. It may become part of their social studies.

Dolores Fisher has a 9th grader who “is just a little concerned.”

“She sees me and her dad looking at what’s going on a little bit,” she said. “She just says it just seems like both candidates have a lot of issues, and I said yes, and we just have to make the choice for what’s best for what we think.”

Fisher said her daughter didn’t remember hearing these kind of things before, and Fisher told her, “Well, you are older.”

“I do show her what our values are,” she told KOIN 6 News. “She’s pretty good about understanding that they’re just both in competition for the same position.”

No matter who you’re voting for, parents may also find some teaching moments to help children and teens learn and grow.

“Bringing it back to your core family values — whatever those are — respect, love, honesty, integrity and compare those,” Buys said. “I think that’s a good tool to use with your kids.”