By: Vivian Shillingsburg
A parent’s job is to shape their child and to help them along the path of finding who they want to be. Children are a reflection of their parents. A huge factor of that is a child’s political beliefs. When it comes to politics, teens often don’t feel like they know enough about the topic to think differently than their parents. They may feel like they are letting their family down or even betraying them. It’s hard for a teen to shape their own thoughts when it comes to this difficult subject. How is this affecting teens and politics today?
What a parent can do
It is uncommon for a teenager to follow different beliefs than those of their parents. A kid grows up hearing the same thing over and over again, forcing them to accept them as true, shaping what they believe. To put it in perspective, if someone grows up in a Christan home, they are more than likely going to remain Christan for their entire life. That’s because as a child, they were told that Jesus was God’s son and He died for our sins. Eventually, the child grows to rely on this idea, and it becomes all that they can affirm. If a child is brought up in a liberal family, it is rare that they would become conservative. If their parents are Democrats, they will most likely register as a Democrat, at least when they first register. As young people mature, ideas might change, but there will always be a part of them with liberal or conservative views, depending on what their family believes.According to ushistory.org, “children tend to grow up and vote the way their parents do.” It is important for families to allow a child to consider the other side of things. When having a political conversation, it is important to ask the child what they think of a problem, before the parents express their own views. When a parent sees that their child has mostly shaped their own views, the parent should challenge their opinion. Of course, I’m not saying that parents are the only influence for political views that a child has. Kids are influenced by their peers, television, social media, and the list goes on, families do have the biggest impact on a child’s political beliefs.
When the conversations should start
Many families believe that having political-like conversation with a young child is a bad idea, but this isn’t necessarily true. Parents should start to educate their child on how politics and the government work around the age of seven or eight. Addressing minor issues in the news and bringing it up to question is always a good idea. This allows a child to learn about these issues and to feel comfortable talking about them and even throwing around some ideas. It may sound boring, but it can be really fun when the child gets a feel for how these conversations work. These family discussions help bond the family and they make dinner conversations a lot more interesting. As the child gets older these talks can get even more stimulating. Around the age of eleven a child should have a pretty good idea about what they feel is important to them and they should know what side that puts them on, if any. This is when the conversations become entertaining and exciting for a kid because they are able to impress their parents with what they know, and they learn about different point of views. It is never too early for families to begin having these thoughtful conversations.
Why is this so important
Any american will tell you that our government is one of the most important parts of our country. It’s the reason our country hasn’t fallen to pieces. Our organized government is a vital part of our nation, so there is no reason that the future of our country should not be educated on how it works, what goes on, and how to form their own opinion about all of it. Parents influence their children’s future more than most other factors in their lives, so allowing a child to form opinions of their own, especially ones as important as politics, will make them better people in the long run. According to Forbes, one of the best qualities that employers look for is independent thinking. Liz Ryan states in her article for Forbes, 12 Qualities Employers Look for When They’re Hiring, “Strong managers want to hire people who have their own ideas [so] take the opportunity to share an opinion[.]” A parent can’t go wrong by teaching their kids these things. It helps the family, the child, and even the entire country.
This article is not meant to make you question your parenting, or your parent’s parenting, depending on what role you play in your family, but it is meant to give you some insight. Lots of parents don’t know how to have these types of conversations with their kids, and some kids feel as though their parents would disapprove of their own political views, and no one should ever feel this way. Whether you are the parent or the child, start having informative conversations with your family about some difficult topics you see in the news. Try to see things from other points of view and don’t be afraid to share your own. The worst that could happen is you get in an illuminating debate. Who knows, it could be fun!