How to talk to children about the election?

can we talk about anything Are certain topics taboo? Three specialists in children’s literature advise parents to take a relaxed approach to politics with their children.

With just over a week to go before the first round of the presidential election, some parents may be wondering how to talk politics with their kids and talk to them about the upcoming election.

Twelve candidates from left, right, far left, far right… Voters who can vote blank or abstain, a first and second ballot, general elections underway… At first glance, the subject may seem complicated to discuss. Three authors of books and magazines for young people give us tips for discussing politics at a child’s level.

• Does it make sense to talk about it?

Finance, public spending, energy… Are certain topics too difficult to discuss with a child? Politics isn’t just for adults, believes Marion Joseph, editor-in-chief of theAstrapi, a 14-days for children from 7 to 11 years. “No topic is too complicated in itself.”

“The presidential elections are the ideal opportunity to introduce them to citizenship. The kids see posters, hear the candidates on TV, snippets of adult discussion, on D-Day we take them to the polls, we spend them in the polling booth.”

Astrapi also dedicated a special issue in March dedicated to the presidential elections and the presidential profession. But in order to talk about these topics, it is ideal to remain as specific as possible, recommends Marion Joseph. And thus avoid overly abstract concepts and terms.

“Democracy is a big word, but we can just explain to them that we have the opportunity to elect the people who represent us and make decisions for us,” she advises.

“In the next general election, we can understand that a president alone does not decide that we elect MPs to vote on the laws. And that the latter affect different aspects of their daily lives, from school to the hospitals.”

• Are certain topics taboo?

Terrorism, security, international issues – like the war in Ukraine… Should we consciously avoid certain issues that are too sensitive or touchy? Sylvie Baussier, author of The elections, questions/answers chez Nathan – a book for children from 7 years old – believes that there is no such thing as a taboo subject. However, she recommends not anticipating the children’s questions and waiting until he formulates their questions.

“We must not be afraid of their requests, especially since there are many children’s books that can be used as support. The idea is to give them the basics, a culture, historical references.”

And above all, the tools for reflection. A point of view shared by Denis Langlois, author of The policy for children explains, a classic for ages 11 and up, illustrated by Plantu and updated this year for the presidential election. He therefore believes that talking about politics amounts to “evoking the way humans organize collective life on earth”.

“Society has become depoliticized in recent years, and we see that in the lack of interest that the presidential election has aroused,” he notes. “But if we don’t care about politics anymore, democracy will be in the hands of professional politicians and technocrats.”

“It’s not about taking a course in forced activism, but you don’t become a citizen at 18 either,” he continues. “You become a voter at 18. Children are already citizens in the making.”

• Should we take sides?

What attitude should one take in the face of sometimes troubling questions from children? In particular, the difference between right and left, the clichés of certain men and certain politicians, or the nuances between candidates from parties that are relatively close together on the political spectrum? Should we commit?

“It may seem taboo, either because parents are afraid children will repeat what is said at home or because they are afraid to oblige them,” says Marion Joseph, editor-in-chief ofAstrapi.

“Politics can be very emotional, whether we’re excited about a project or hate a candidate,” she says. But we can explain why we feel on this side while adding that there are also people who think differently.

For Sylvie Baussier, the ideal is to reveal the different points of view without being biased and dealing with the subject matter-of-factly. “To take sides, you have to have the basics,” she says. “Politics doesn’t necessarily mean wanting to change someone else’s opinion, but exchanging points of view, we can tell them that.

Denis Langois, the author of The policy for children explains, on the contrary, recommends a great openness, because our political opinions escape us and inevitably appear before the children. “You can’t help but have a reaction when you hear certain things on the radio or on TV. Making a comment, a raised eyebrow, a facial expression. The child understands very well what the opinions of his parents are.”

“You can absolutely tell him ‘that’s what I think,’ but add that other people might have a different and quite respectable point of view. That we can discuss, listen to, discuss and respond to each other’s point of view their arguments. The idea is to help them reflect and form their own opinions.”

• Which vocabulary to use?

There’s only one caveat when talking about politics with kids: choose the vocabulary they understand, advises Sylvie Baussier, whose book asks and answers questions like “Why do some voters abstain?”, “How do we campaign ?” or even “what is an electoral list?”. There is nothing better than appealing to the children’s everyday lives.

“Children are also familiar with the principle of elections at school when choosing their delegates,” she remarks. “With this comparison, we can keep things simple without oversimplifying.”

“Children can understand complex concepts, such as the fact that elected officials do not reflect the entire population or that elections are not always fair, especially in sham democracies,” the author continues. Provided the terms are well defined. “When we speak between adults, we have the codes, that’s not the case with a child,” stresses Denis Langlois, using the word “citizenship” as an example.

“It’s an abstract concept for children,” she explains. “If you talk to them about politics, you have to define the terms. You should not hesitate to be as specific as possible and answer all questions, often in cascades. To explain, to define, is not to oversimplify or be stupid, but to squeeze the mirror and rise up.” And in any case, he concludes, discussing politics with children can be just as beneficial for children as it is for adults.

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