What You Need to Know About Children and Elections

By Jennifer Kaberi

It is that season when ,your little one comes home shouting Tibim, Tano tena, fagia wote, as parent you will start asking yourself where on earth did they learn all this from. It natural for any parent to want to shield there children from the ever increasing political discourse, but in  reality it is not possible.

Hence here is our advise on what to do when your little angel starts to flex her political muscles.

Don’t assume they do not know what is going on

Most parents assume that because you watch the 9 oclock news, when they are asleep they don’t know anything. So be intentional to watch at least one bulletin with your children in order to know what they know, dont know or mis know.  This new information will help you guide your child and give them the right information.

Be ready to answer questions

Yah, he may be four but, he may have lots of questions, starting with

What is Tibim?…. please post in the comment section, because I also don’t know.

Apart from that the following are common questions

As a parent be ready to answer your child with the right information and use child friendly and age appropriate techniques. For example

Who is a president?

A president is the leader of a nation and is elected every 5 years……

207 v

Safeguard your child

The heightened political temperature, may cause politicians make some unacceptable comments, during a live TV interview. It may be too fast for you to turn off the TV, hence be quick to mention to your child that what that leader is saying is not right and reinforce your family values.

Be careful of  what you speak about the different politicians, or your political ideology or political opponents in front of your children . It is proven children learn by observing, thus you may think you are not passing on your political views and ideology to your children. In reality, unconsciously you are showing your children your stand, which they communicate in the play grounds, school or at home.

In this season of heightened political tension, advise your children to be aware of groupings and crowds and avoid them.  Ensure that you know where your children  are at all time. Encourage your child to report/tell you of any negative discussion that sounds like incitement.

Children have political views similar to those of parents and this may put them in trouble among their peers and may result to bullying. Hence it is important for you to build resilience in your child and in build life skills and strong family values to stand against bullying. Encourage them to report/tell you of any form of bullying.

Limit Exposure to Media
Rhetoric in the news about social inclusion, tribalism and violence can be distressing
for anyone, but especially for children. Simply turning off the television and limiting
exposure to social media will help to shield your children from the negativity surrounding the election. If they do see or hear something in the news, take the time to listen and dispel any misinformation.

Manage Fear of Change and Maintain Routines
Children need consistency in order to feel safe. Election rhetoric about violence can make children fearful that their lives and families will change immediately and dramatically.  Remind your children that, if anything does change, your family will have time to plan for the future together. Reinforce that they are safe

Empower Children
Despite images of divisiveness and hate in the media during the election, remind children that elections are meant to give people a role in government. They can be agents of change through their actions and words. Let children know that their views matter, and that our government includes checks and balances designed to give everyone a voice.

Pray

Let your children know that relying on a higher power will ensure they are safe and the right leader is elected. Show them how  to pray for the nation.

CAUTION 

If you suspect your child is very anxious and you are unable to deal with her/him, please call Toll Free  the Kenya Child Help Line  (116)  for help.

 

Further Reading

http://www.childguidance.org

http://www.pbs.org/parents/special/election/article-theraceison.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/16/living/kids-and-politics/index.html

Jennifer Kaberi is a child development  policy and advocacy expert, she can be reached on jennifer@mtotonews.com

Mtoto News is an online platform of news, information and resources that aims at making significant change in the lives of children by making them visible. Read mtotonews.com  or follow us on twitter and Facebook @mtotonews

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