How Do You Talk to Your Kids About the Election?

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Nov. 5 2012 5:20 PM

How Do You Talk to Your Kids About the Election?

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Crazy partisan activist.

Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages

Last week's viral video of poor little Abigael crying about the election caused me to reflect on what good parents my husband and I are. This model parenting all started about six months ago, when our then 3-year-old saw us watching Mitt Romney on "grown-up TV" (the news) and asked: Who is that? Without even consulting a single parenting book, my husband confidently answered: "Mitt Romney. He's a bad man.”

This turned out to be a bad move, particularly when my husband was assigned to cover the Democratic National Convention, and my son became increasingly concerned that Mitt Romney might be there to “hurt Dad.” Instead of telling him that, no, Mitt Romney’s not that kind of bad man (meaning, not like The Joker or Two Face), we just assured our slightly confused, bad-guy/good-guy obsessed child that Mitt would not make an appearance at the DNC. To simplify, we said something along the lines of, “Where Dad’s going will only have good guys.” (Like I said, simplified.)

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It didn’t end there. A few weeks later, the inquisitive child asked what Mitt Romney does that’s so bad. Husband said, "he tells fibs.” Now this really made our son's eyes light up! Telling fibs—that I understand! He began repeatedly talking about how "Mitt Romney tells fibs,” and later asked if Mitt Romney’s kids were also bad guys. This is when I stepped in, hoping to bring some nuance to the situation (and suddenly remembering how, years earlier, my husband had scarred our little nephew by telling him that Scooter Libby was a monster in the basement to keep him from coming downstairs and waking us up early in the morning). I changed the narrative by telling my son that Mitt Romney is NOT a bad guy, but that he believes certain things that Dad and I don’t believe, and we think that if he’s president, he’ll do things that we don’t agree with. (Yes, I am with most of my colleagues.) I also told him that plenty of very good people, like his two grandfathers, prefer Mitt Romney to Barack Obama and will vote for him. Which led my beautiful child to ask me in a very loud voice one night at dinner, “Why does Grandpa believe Mitt Romney’s fibs???” I gave the only sane answer: “That's a very, very good question."

So, how do you talk to your kids about the election? Email us at doublex.slate@gmail.com and we'll publish some of your sage advice and talks-gone-wrong tomorrow.

Allison Benedikt is a Slate senior editor. Follow her on Twitter.

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