Talking with Children about Trump

Friend and regular reader Phyllis asked where Archie and his young friends got their information about “when you’re a grown up and popular, you get to make a lot of money like Trump.” I actually have no idea, as I didn’t go down that path with him. I chose to focus on the distinction between being popular and being a good person.

But her question raises an important issue for those of us in contact with young children in any way. How do we talk about Trump? Phyllis and I are from the same era, where as children we were taught to respect the office of the presidency and the institutions of our political life. According to the Burns and Novick documentary on VietNam, that respect began to wane nationally when people realized that successive presidents had lied to us. But that basic formative notion of respect for institutions and the people in them was still part of our value and belief system.

I have no respect for Trump, and think our Grifter-in-Chief makes a mockery of the office. But six year olds are concrete, not apt to sit for nuanced explanations about why you can’t respect this one but maybe next time we’ll get a better one and you can respect him or her. I think there are significant implications in raising a generation of children without respect for our core democratic institutions.

I think the burn-the-house-down forces of social media, driven by people like Steve Bannon and Alex Jones, are tremendously dangerous. That’s the environment we live in as well.

The bottom line is that I have no idea how to talk with six year olds about the institutions of our democracy and the people who occupy them in the era of Trump. Do you?


4 thoughts on “Talking with Children about Trump

  1. When it comes to speaking to children about the President of the United States, I am very sad that we are in the situation we are in right now. I also was taught respect for the office of the President and my parents, who set the example for me, often did not exactly agree with everything that was going on in the country or even like the person in office, but they respected them and we were taught to be respectful.

    Today, that is difficult if not impossible. My 5 year old grandson attended a Catholic pre school (family is not Catholic…it was in the neighborhood). One day the teacher was talking about Saints and explaining that the saints were God’s helpers. My grandson raised his hand and the teacher asked if he had aomething to share,and he said: “Mrs.______, Donald Trump is no saint, he’s evil”. While we adults initially found this hilarious, it is actually very sad that a (then) 4 year old has that to say about the President.

    My daughter was extremely upset at the election of Donald Trump. She was concerned for her family and the entire country and no soothing words from me were calming in any way. Plus I was also upset and agreed with her. She was appalled and angry and frightened for the future. And, of course, every day, reinforced by the next newscast. To her credit, she and a number of her friends and neighbors were galvanized into action and got organized to work for change, to hold rallies, to teach their children to be kind to others, etc. And also to be more careful how they talk in front of their children who are quietly listening and absorbing every single word. Small things maybe, but it hopefully sets an example as her boys are growing and watching. This is a hard time for parents and teachers….no matter how you lean politically……there is a lot to explain every day. And, there is the wider world for kids are exposed to as well. Hopefully, they will be able to navigate in those choppy waters. It’s a hard time to be raising a young family.

    I would like to think that we will get past this….and of course we will….but at what cost?

  2. Mary
    No matter what your politics, your daughter is doing exactly what’s needed for little one’s in these contentious times.

  3. for Mary: This is a thoughtful response to my question, and I appreciate it. I’m in much the same place you are — as is the rest of Klainer west. I think there is a great cost to our democracy from withholding respect from the president. And yet I don’t respect him, and can’t admonish my grandkids to either. I like your daughter’s activism — my daughter-in-law and son have done similar things with the kids. We will get through this, but I too wonder about the cost.

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