Parenting Through Politics

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on Jul 19, 2017 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question: My husband and I do not agree politically. It has never been too much of an issue before but after the November election, it has become one. We actually have had yelling fights in front of the kids. Afterward, we came to an agreement as a family that we would just not discuss politics. However, I am rethinking this as I’m not sure it’s healthy to demonstrate to our kids that if we cannot agree, we just won’t discuss. What are some other options we might consider trying?

Answer: This is a challenging time for lots of people. As a country, we are polarized in our political views. You are already thinking appropriately to want to be able to discuss in front of, and with, the children things about which you and your husband disagree. It is also a good sign that you have already come together as a family to try to solve this issue. Arguing and expressing anger is normal and healthy; children need to see it and learn about it in a safe environment. Your children will encounter many people who get angry and disagree with them throughout their lives. It is the parent’s job to teach them that disagreements can happen and people can still love and work together. 

When you discuss political things you will need to be able to do it mindfully, recognizing that you are symbolically “walking through a minefield.” Choose words carefully and remember that you are modeling for the children.

Both of you should agree that your points should not belittle or make a mockery of the other’s viewpoint or resort to snide comments on someone’s physical attributes; to do so is not helpful and supports the bullying mentality.

Present your side of the discussion calmly and supported by facts and intelligent, thoughtful opinions. Once you do that, it will be your turn to be quiet and listen. This shows respect, even when disagreeing. Inject humor when possible and decide together when it is time to put the conflict away for a while. For the sake of sanity, make a habit of also looking for the topics or points about which you agree. When marital conflict becomes too pronounced and it is “sucking the air out of the room,” it is time to get some help from a counselor in sorting it out. Good luck.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website and click on “Referrals.”

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