I began our panel on “Parenting in the Age of Political Divisiveness” last Wednesday by reminding everyone present that we would not be discussing our individual views on politics or which party we support. Instead, we’d be discussing what the current political climate is and how we can navigate these times with our children. What transpired was a thoughtful and engaging discussion that gave those present plenty to think about.
In the meantime, here are some takeaways from the evening that may spark some reflection for you:
- While there have been plenty of times of polarization in our political history, the current climate is particularly intense due to the rise of social media and the 24-hour news cycle. Panelists Michael Bitzer, professor of politics and history at Catawba College, and Stephen Ward, executive director of university communications at UNC Charlotte, both emphasized that this “noise” is adding to the polarization.
- Children aren’t learning how to compromise and debate civilly, in part because adults aren’t teaching them these skills. Panelists Myqe Harris, a counselor at Southeast Psych, and Prep’s head of Middle School, Evan Kurtz, both reinforced that adults need to model empathy and teach kids how to disagree respectfully.
- To teach kids these skills, we as parents need to clarify our values and commit to them. Harris suggested that it’s okay to teach kids to challenge ideas to learn how to have a healthy dialogue.
- Being intentional is key. Panelist Mark Rumsey, the host of WFAE’s “All Things Considered” program, suggested pausing and asking young people to consider how people are speaking to one another.
- Sometimes we all find it easier to avoid tough conversations, particularly around politics. But if we want our children to learn how to navigate the world they live in, we need to embrace speaking to people with opinions and experiences that may be different from our own—and not with raised voices.
I concluded the evening by asking the panelists what gives them hope. Each responded in one way or another that the answer lies in our children and the young people of the next generation, who are already showing a sincere civic-mindedness. That put the perfect exclamation point on an informative discussion that renewed hope that we can bridge our society’s divides, at least in our One Prep community.