The American presidential inauguration on Friday 20 January presents an excellent opportunity to introduce your child to politics. Being a political junkie myself, I introduced my daughter to politics from when she was a baby. I would watch the news while feeding her and by the time she was old enough to understand what she was watching politics had become second nature.
I am well aware that many mothers would take the line that children should be shielded from politics because the news is always bad. Quite understandably these mothers do not want their children exposed to the sights of people being bombed and injured. However, I take a different view.
As mothers we are constantly nurturing our children to become respectable citizens when they are old enough to step into the world on their own. We help them forge identities and, like it or not, this process forces mothers, sometimes quite unconsciously, to absorb the world around them and to take from it what they think are the best elements that can be imparted to their children.
As an example, mothers restrict their children’s food intake in an attempt to ensure that only healthy food and drinks are consumed. Food and drink are politically sensitive issues. The sugar industry is currently under scrutiny due to the high number of people being diagnosed with diabetes. Child obesity is another issue that has been politicised.
My point is that politics is a pervasive and persistent influence in our lives. Decisions are made by politicians who are quite often stuck in a political bubble and these decisions do not always reflect ordinary lives. This is where mothers can play a part. Educate a child so that it grows up knowing and being fully aware of the political decision making machinery that touches us all.
All that is required is a rudimentary explanation. The inauguration presents an excellent opportunity because there will be protests and the swearing in of a controversial man as President. All beamed live on TV. This is my suggestion:
1. Get a map out and point to America.
2. Explain that the President’s role is to ‘take charge’ of America in much the same way that a parent or teacher takes charge of children. Scale up this explanation by explaining that governing is country is much harder work which is why the role of President is a very important one.
3. If you don’t like Trump (like me) take time to explain that this President has been nasty to women, disabled people and people of colour. This will pave the way to your explanation on why protests are taking place.
4. Explain that protests are part of living in a democracy i.e a free society where people can disagree without fear.
5. Make it fun by initiating a two-way conversation. Ask your child what he or she thinks. You may be surprised by their answers.
6. If your child shows an active interest you could take this talk further by explaining that Big Ben is where British politics resides. A trip to Big Ben would be a brilliant idea too.