Talking to Your Children About the Election
Every election year provides unique teaching opportunities, as the students gain an intimate look into the democractic process and the workings of the electoral college. Our current election cycle feels a little different from previous years, though, with rhetoric that is too often divisive and demeaning.
We know many of our students are aware of these tensions, and we wanted to provide a framework to help them process their thoughts and feelings and also remind them of our community values. Our Middle School students have had conversations with their advisors and teachers. In the Elementary School, Counselor Allison Klothe, Chaplain Kristen Pitts, and I have been facilitating these discussions. Helping our students become kind, confident, and prepared means equipping them to engage in civil discourse around difficult topics.
WES has established some parameters to enable us to have healthy dialogue about these topics. These may also be useful for you as you discuss these issues at home with your children.
- Focus on the issues, not the people. When we do this, it helps our students understand that elections are about what matters most to us, and not just who is featured in the media. As we help our children develop critical-thinking skills, this also provides an opportunity for them to form their own opinions and reflect on what they think is good and true. This can be done in an age-appropriate way, from conversations around sharing and fairness for younger children and more sophisticated policy discussions with Middle School students.
- Listen actively. One of the ways we can show our respect for others is by listening to those who offer opinions that differ from our own. In conversations between people with divergent views, there is often a tendency to listen impatiently as we wait for our own turn to speak. However, we should all strive to listen with empathy and to understand other people’s perspectives and motivations.
- Be kind. Our school motto has never been more important. It’s normal to have different opinions and it’s appropriate to talk about them. But it’s never acceptable to talk about our beliefs in an unkind way; we should always show respect for others. As one Grade 5 student reminded us, “We may hear other people talking about the candidates rudely but that doesn’t mean that we have to do it, too.”
As we reflect on our value of kindness, it’s important to remember that kindness does not mean that we have to tolerate ideas that demean others. At WES, we celebrate inclusivity. We have been reminding our Dragons that we stand for everyone, and especially people whose identities sometimes leave them marginalized in our society. And we will continue to do so, no matter what the outcome of the election may be.
Head of School