I’m an American married to an Italian with two children who were born in London, UK. We have lived in London for the past eight years and proudly call it our home. I’m not an expert on policy or politics. I believe in democracy and unity. I believe in love.
Dropping off the children at the school gates this morning I overheard many parents and teachers talking about the impact of this morning’s result. One mother, from France, told me her seven-year old daughter said to her this morning, “But I voted IN!” Children are confused. They pick up on what’s happening around them. I think it’s important we inform them, in an age appropriate way, so that they won’t feel scared or worried.
Trying to explain what the UK’s EU referendum means to my children this morning was eye-opening. Putting it in simple terms so that a five and seven- year-old can understand actually puts it in perspective. I tried to answer their questions as best as I could but the truth is I don’t know the answers. Nobody does. Not even the so called “experts."
I found a great post from Fisherton Press about how to explain the EU referendum to a child which helped guide my conversation.
Here’s how I explained it to them:
Yesterday, the British grown ups in the country were allowed to vote on whether the UK would stay in the European Union or not. The result was that the UK would leave the EU.
1. The Economy
More money for better services such as for health and schools in the UK. People who wanted to leave the EU thought that we will have more money that way. People who wanted to stay in the EU thought that we will have more money that way.
“But they both say the same thing!,” said my daughter Luna with a confused look on her face.
“Nobody actually knows the answer,” I replied.
People from countries in the EU are allowed to live and work in any other country in the EU. When people come to live in a new country it is called immigration. People who want to leave the EU think that we should only allow some people to come and live here because they don’t think we have enough space or houses or jobs for everyone and they worry it stops the United Kingdom from feeling British.
People who want to stay in the EU think that anyone from the EU should have the opportunity to live in any other country and that having people from lots of countries living here makes our country more exciting because we get to share different types of food and music and art and because those people help do jobs in our country and think of ways to make life better for everyone.
They also think it is the right thing to do because anyone who wants to have the opportunity to get a good job and to give their family a nice life should be allowed to. People who want to leave the EU worry that that people from countries who are not part of the EU club will come into other countries in the EU and then find it easy to get to this country. People who want to stay in the EU mainly think that if someone is unhappy in their country, either because there is war or not enough food or no jobs or because they can’t live their life the way they want to, then they should be allowed to live here while we work with other countries to make their country a safe place for people to live.
“But I’m British because I was born here. And you and daddy aren’t. But we’re all in the same family,” said Luna.
I replied, “Yes and that’s how I see everyone. That we’re all one family. We are all human beings. We are all brothers and sisters. We all want the same thing, which is to have a safe place to live, food, shelter, a job, and to feel loved and happy.”
3. Workers Rights
Many of the laws that help people at work are because we are a member of the EU and have to have the same laws as the other countries in the EU. An example is if your mummy was allowed to have some time not working when you were a baby but still got paid, or if your parents can have holidays from work while being paid, and people not being able to work so many hours that they are too tired. People who want to leave the EU either think these laws are not important or that we don’t need the EU to help us make these laws.
“But why wouldn’t we have the same laws? I don’t understand. Why would the laws be different for Nonni (her grandparents) as it is for us in England?,” she asked.
“I don’t really have an answer for you, sweetie. I wish I did. I believe we’re all equal no matter what country we come from and that rights should be universal, but unfortunately not all governments believe that,” I said.
Luna asked, “Like that girl Malala who couldn’t go to school because she’s a girl?”
“Yes. Exactly. In some countries laws are different for girls then for boys,” I said.
A long time ago, probably when your grandparents’ own mummies and daddies and grandmas and grandpas were alive, there were wars in Europe and our country was involved. War is when countries fight each other. When we are in the same club like the EU it means that if countries have an argument with each other then they are more likely to sort it out by talking than by fighting. This is very important because when countries fight they use guns and bombs and people get hurt and can die. People who want to stay in the EU think that there is less chance of our country fighting other countries if we are in the same club.
Obviously, when talking about war and security this can be alarming for children. I assured the children that they had nothing to worry about. I told them that they are safe and everything is OK.
My daughter asked, “Does that mean we’re not in Europe right now?” She's so confused.
As a parent, I do wonder how this will impact my children’s generation. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you've explained Brexit to your children and what responses they've given. We can learn so much from our children. #ItsTheirFuture #AskYourChildren
Adina is the founder and director of the International charity In-Visible, a youth advocate, reiki master, meditator, writer, training as a child psychotherapist, & mother of two. You can find her on facebook, instagram, and twitter.