As November 6th draws nearer, I’ve begun questioning whether we, as adults, should discuss politics with our children. I’ve wondered whether the nature of the current political climate is too warped, dishonest, hate filled and complex in its underlying motivations to discuss with young people—who are still developing their identities and establishing their personal blueprints for how the world functions.
In answering that question this week on Youth Empowered
, Dr. Jason Stein (Dr. J) and I were moved to reconsider the definition of politics. We found that politics is more than just a war of words between Democrats and Republicans, and that there is space to reframe the conversation so that we and the young people we care about can feel empowered, rather than embittered.
At its core, politics is about relationships, choices, and power.
It’s involved in many spheres of our lives; from schoolyard politics, to gang politics, to the politics of activism, federal politics, city politics, and family politics. Most of us, young and old, are involved in political maneuvering almost every day of our lives.
Given this understanding, it turns out that we probably are already discussing certain forms of politics with our children. The key is to become more intentional about the conversation, and to realize that politics isn’t just words, it’s also action, and it can be a tool that empowers young people, teaches empathy, and encourages their desire to be engaged in the world “out there.” But just how do we expand the conversation
to include these important growth opportunities?
A great way to begin, as Dr. J always reminds us, is with a question. After investigating any assumptions you might have about your child’s perspective, simply ask them what they’re interested in, or what they might like to become involved with.
With all the technological, electronic, social, economic, sexual and familial forces vying for their attention, asking young people to find a cause to latch on to can be a lot. Frequently, they need our support—whether that means accompanying them to a volunteer recruitment meeting for a local cause, or embodying a real sense of advocacy in our own lives and sharing those inclinations with them.
This work is important, because when young people see and feel that their actions have a specific and concrete impact on someone else’s livelihood, they feel empowered, and they’re inspired to seek out more opportunities for empowerment. Being engaged in the world can increase a young person’s desire to learn about and become a part of the political process. And that’s often where a real conversation can begin.
Politics is the space in which people back up their beliefs with action and conviction and try to do something about the world in which they live. By supporting our children in understanding the ways we’re all connected, how our actions actually matter, and how policy matters, we have a shot at encouraging a new generation of people who don’t look at politics as being a dirty business, but perhaps as something that really does exist to make things better.
- Eric Komoroff
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