Do you realise that with a general election brewing, it really matters what you say in front of your children. You might think they are more interested in Minecraft than Prime Minister May, but you will be surprised what goes in. And what comes out. Because children almost always echo their parents political views (until, of course, they grow old enough to take the opposite ones).
If you rail against ‘immigrants taking all the jobs’ they will repeat this in the playground. Probably, unfortunately, to one of their Polish or Romanian friends. If you think it’s a crime that libraries are closing and that the NHS is strapped for cash, they will automatically see doctors, nurses and librarians as things worth saving. If you’re furious about paying tax, they’ll believe that the nasty government is taking all mummy and daddy’s money. But if you explain that taxes are things that help pay for roads and hospitals and for children to go to nursery, their views will be shaped rather differently.
And it matters even more what you do. I didn’t realise this until one of my children, in her twenties, left a supper party early to dash to the polling booth before it closed. “I was thinking that when we were little you once took us with you when you voted, and when we were there you told us that women had died so that we could when we grew up we could vote, so I suddenly thought I ought to make the effort ….”
So whatever your political views, talk to your children about what’s happening between now and June. Explain why we have elections, and what it means to vote, and let them see that you care enough about your society to understand the issues and take them seriously. Chat about the news and let them hear what you think, but also try and explain why other people might see things differently.
A general election, as we all know, can be tedious, annoying and boring, but it can also be the perfect opportunity to help your children develop their civic awareness, their sense of community and their capacity for understanding and empathy.
Hilary Wilce is an education write, writing tutor and life coach. Her two e-books for parents, ‘Backbone: how to build the character your child needs to succeed’ and ‘The Six Secrets of School Success” are available on Amazon.