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How and when do you start educating and involving your children in political discussion?
I feel that it is appropriate to begin by allowing your children to experience politics with you. You, as a citizen, should watch the presidential debates. It might be better to watch them on YouTube or some other service which allows you to pause. Encourage asking questions.
Whenever they ask a question that, for their age range, is over their head, it is a good time to have a “teachable moment.” A teachable moment is any time where an opportunity presents itself for a parent or adult to impart wisdom or knowledge on a child when things occurring in the environment create times where the child has some curiosity about what they are seeing.
Take the more recent Republican debate. A question was asked about the Russian involvement in the Syrian Civil War in which the two main individuals, Senator Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, had wildly different views on how to handle the situation as it related to Russia. There is a wealth of teachable moments if the child asks things like, “Dad, where’s Syria?” or any of a thousand questions that line of conversation would have brought to the surface.
These could lead to more questions, or the conversation could end there. Either way, it’s important to allow your children to see you engaged, which encourages them to do so as well. Secondly, it is important to foster an environment where your kids feel comfortable asking you questions. Any age is appropriate for this, so long as you apply the questions in a format they can handle.
Another important element to encouraging discussion is that it allows you to control when and under what conditions your children become aware of certain ideas. At some point, they are going to have to learn about refugees. At some point they are going to have to learn about drugs and terrorism.
It’s better that that first introduction to these hard ideas comes from a safe place where they can be guided in a way that won’t scar them to the world, but understand it, accept it, and even appreciate the good life that so many of them have. You want to be the first person to tell your kids about Islamic Fundamentalism, or war, murder, politics, or starvation… It has to be you, or it will be Google Images once they hear about it from some other source later.
Jon Davis is a former Marine who often writes about the military, veterans, and Middle Easter affairs. You can find more of his quora posts here: