Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Practicality: Helping Your Child Survive the Political Season

We are a political family. No, we are not ardent devoted followers of any one particular political doctrine, even though freedom of speech is up their as numero uno on our Bill of Rights chart. We do however, have frank, open and honest political discussions continually throughout our lives, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes. You might say, we are obsessed with politics in this family. And NO by no means do we all agree....There is one overriding theme, however, in our house and that is an attempt at rationality. OK that doesn't always work when dealing with politics and opinions but we give it a good old fashioned try.

When CM2 was in middle school like his brother he brought a newspaper with him every day to school to sit and read in the cafeteria. The boys got the reputation as the newspaper boys in school. In fact the principal used to ask them what newspaper they had brought with them on any particular day. CM1 he would read, discuss and move on with his day. CM2 on the other hand, could never let go the feelings of anxiety that the news stories would bring up.  CM2 instead of assimilating the news let it overwhelm him. In fact he became so maudlin, we had to ban him from newspapers and in fact he was not even allowed to watch the news. This went on for years. And yes this is when we pushed his interests in other directions (my gamer-man).

You always hear about the stories of the child that couldn't sleep because they were worried about nuclear war. Well CM2 was one of those children, except after 9/11 and living near NYC, it was fear of terrorism and the news certainly didn't help matters any. So as we have always done we took matters into our own hands.

The funny thing was that CM2 was relieved to be "allowed" to not care about the news. He was happy that it was not supposed to be part of his day and in fact would remind his brother if CM1 tried to put the news on the television when he was in the room, that he wasn't allowed to watch the news. We basically gave CM2 permission to be a child. Nice idea that....

Now CM2 did return to TV news, not so much newspapers more internet, when he entered highschool. I suppose as we watched him and he slept better we figured he could handle the topics and the conversation. Truth be told, current events were part and parcel of his schooling. And no it did not go well.

During the Presidential election in 2008 both boys became terribly frightened. Neither believed the democratic candidate. They didn't trust him, They truly felt that the world was going to end if he won. Well of course he did and CM2 spent days crying in school. He wasn't afraid as much as he was terrified the world was going to implode. He felt his world was going to change and not for the better.

We had to assure him that nothing really was going to change. That the President and even Congress has very little direct effect on your day-to-day life (yes, I was wrong, but I had to calm CM2 down). The question became how do you help a child get over the fear-mongering (from both sides) and let go of a loss or let reality set in if there is a win?

The truth is there is very little beyond your own reassurance that you can do for them especially as they age. At some point you cannot cut off the outside world. But you give them the tools that they need to take care of themselves. We told him that mom and dad would worry about the money and the future. His job was school. If he wanted to assure his future he should study hard, work hard and never ever think that he can rely on the government. Be self-sufficient that was what we taught him. Be self-reliant. That is what we taught him. Find a way to take your future in your own hands and then you are not dependent on anyone else to handle your day to day worries.

So he studied. He worked hard. He is figuring out what he wants to do with his life. Over the past four years his perspectives have changed and so has his politics. No he doesn't like the democrats but he doesn't like the republicans either. It is the fear-mongering and the bullshit. They are both liars. Both sides don't tell the truth. Both sides will do and say anything to get elected or reelected. I suppose you can say he is learning the true purpose of college and that is to be an iconoclast, challenge everything you thought you were and listen to the propaganda that you find in the classroom from your professors.

Hey hubby and I both lived through it. We, Reagan republicans,  had Howard Zinn for a professor in college. I have to say these courses were some of the best classes I ever sat through. Making you challenge yourself, who you are and where you are going is terrific. I just wish CM2 would do it without screaming, yelling and getting into knock-down drag-outs with his very fiscally and foreign affairs conservative brother. Problem is not the discussion, problem is the life or death scenario these discussions take on. (Social issues they wholeheartedly agree upon, its the rest that makes for a balagan.)

So we sit them down and reiterate the reality. Depend on yourselves. Do not depend on anyone else or any government or politician. Study hard. Work hard. Be self-reliant. Things are never as good as they say and things are never as bad (OK maybe they are, in fact they can be even worse, but that is another blog for a different day).

Think and do and question throughout the political season. Help your child put everything into real life perspectives. Independence of thought and mind and personality is what will get you through this political season. Don't listen when one side says their opponent will abandon those with autism or destroy the safety net, or the other side says you can balance the budget in the long run without raising taxes.

If they are old enough get them to do research on their own. Don't just take a candidates (or their PACS) word for the truth. Teach your child how smart and intelligent they are by helping them learn how to research the real issues and find the real truth. Give them the power to control that portion of their lives. No they cannot change the world, but they can be masters of their own fate. That will go along way in giving them security.

Yes, one side will lose in November. It is how our republic works. But maybe just maybe we will end up with a divided government so everyone will win. That is also a lesson we teach the boys...when there is divided government, they either have to compromise or no real laws get passed, which may be the best thing in the long run. But you need to prepare your child that their side just might lose. They may have to learn to live with a government that they did not want. No they can't go around crying for days on end. They need to pick themselves up and dust themselves off and take care of themselves. Prepare them for the day after the election and all will go fine.

Sadly though, CM2 has gone from being a frightened little boy to a cynical youngman. He just announced that he despises both candidates. That he doesn't care who wins because they are both huge piles of crap. He is thinking about not voting at all. His first Presidential election and he is so disgusted by the process that he wants nothing to do with it. Shame on both major parties for that. A plague on both their houses.

Until next time,