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Published on Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How Children Might be Affected by the Presidential Election

Lisa Ryan, MD, with Way to Grow Pediatrics explains how children absorb the different aspects of the election and how you can discuss these with them

On November 8, 2016, Americans will head to the polls and vote for the nation’s next leader.  Before that day, we will continue to be inundated with news stories, political signs, and commercials touting the benefits of a particular candidate often while disparaging the character or beliefs of another. Our children are watching. What do we tell them?

First discuss general terms about the election:

· We vote because it makes our voice heard and is the founding principle of our country.  It is our job as a United States citizen. Elections are often decided by small margins.  Elections with more voter turnout will represent a larger portion of society. Every vote counts. 

· The person who becomes president will have a lot of power and influence over the future direction of our country. That power, however, is shared with Congress and the Supreme Court. This balance of power ensures that the President’s ideas will be enacted only with the approval of many other people.

· Each candidate running for President represents a political party. The two largest parties are the Democrats and the Republicans. Hillary Clinton has been chosen by the Democratic Party as the person who best represents the ideals of the party and will do the best job as President. Donald Trump has been elected by the Republicans for the same reasons.

· Teach your child that we vote for the individual who best represents our values. The person who will best legislate for the things we feel are important. The person with the best ideas.  We don’t have to vote with the political party that we are affiliated, but we can vote for the person. Talk with your child about the values that your family feels are most important. 

Many parents are appropriately trying to shield their children from the hateful and crude direction that the election has taken. However, there are several things to be learned by watching the candidates.

· View political ads, news stories and the debates together with your child. Ask your child what he or she thinks about how the candidates address each other, about the words they choose to use. If your child describes one candidate as “bad” or “good,” ask why. Ask for specifics. Help your child work through his or her thoughts and feelings. Challenge his or her thought process.

· Model respectful listening. Try not to yell at the TV or at people who disagree with you. Demonstrate to your child that people can have different opinions and still be friends. 

· Reinforce your family values. Talk about what is important to you and your family. 

· Don’t ignore the hatred. Likely your child has been raised to respect adults and especially people with authority. Explain the importance of being respectful and inclusive to all people. Reinforce the expectations of how you expect your child to act towards others.

Finally, the policies and priorities of the next president will not only shape the future of our nation, but also that or our children. Children do not have a vote in this election, they need you to be their voice. 

Lisa Ryan, MD, is a member of BJC Medical Group and is on staff at Progress West Hospital. She is a pediatrician at Way to Grow Pediatrics, which is located at 20 Progress Point Parkway, Suite 108, O'Fallon, Mo., which can be reached by calling 636-344-2400. You can also book an appointment today with Dr. Ryan .

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Author: T. Soldner

Categories: Ask the Doctor, Pediatrics, News

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