After such a roller coaster presidential campaign season, it’s a good idea to pause and ask yourself, “Should my children watch the presidential inauguration?”
Watching Inside the Classroom
First, see what approach the school is taking. Because the ceremony is scheduled for Friday morning, “you want to take the lead of the school,” says Samantha Busa, Psy.D., clinical psychology post-doctoral fellow at the Child Study Center, NYU Langone Medical Center. So if your child’s class is watching the inauguration live, plan to have an honest and open-ended conversation for when they get home, Busa says. Although parents can share their own political opinions, they should also ask a lot of questions, like “How did you feel about that? What did you think? What were the good things? What were the not so good things?” Busa suggests.
Of course, you should be flexible and neutral when answering questions; avoid fixating on either the positive or negative sides of the event. It’s important to validate what your kids are thinking and feeling and to give them feedback about how realistic their thoughts are, Busa says.
Watching Outside the School
If your tweens aren’t watching the inauguration at school, “take their lead” instead, says Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, Ph.D., psychology professor at Hunter College and director of the school’s Stress, Anxiety, and Resilience Research Center. If your kids show no sign of interest, don’t force it. Only watch the inauguration if there is interest, or if it’s already part of the family plan. Of course, there’s certainly a benefit to viewing the televised ceremony together, because it “offers a great opportunity for issues to come up and to discuss them constructively as a family,” Dennis-Tiwary says.
With the nation divided about the 45th president, this year’s inauguration is definitely a good jumping-off point for family discussions about past presidential legacies and the big moments in the nation’s history. You can even quiz each other about well-known quotes from inauguration speeches and see who can guess the fastest!
Taking the Time to Talk
Although family conversations are important, avoid stressing too much about having them; instead, allow them to develop organically. “Don’t feel that you have to be a teacher to them at every moment,” Dennis-Tiwary says. “There will be wonderful opportunities to talk about political topics that are not obviously political.”
But if big emotions are still simmering in the family around political differences, acknowledge them and insist on a discussion to clear the air. If you’re really struggling with something emotional that’s related to politics, and your kids are picking up on it, “find an opportunity” to talk, Dennis-Tiwary says. Just make sure to create a safe space for ongoing conversations—your kids should always feel comfortable sharing anything without any judgment.