Several years ago, I quipped before an audience, “Election years make people crazy.” And that was before I had any idea what was coming in 2016. For families with children, this election year brings unique challenges, since the campaign this year feels often like a reality show that breaks only for the Olympics. How do we talk to our children about what they are seeing all around them? The most important step is to combat fear. That's true in any election year, due to the way that partisans—and, sadly, especially Christians—speak in apocalyptic terms every four years. “If Barack Obama is elected, we won’t have a country left in four years,” was said many times in 2008. “Our country can’t survive the reelection of George W. Bush,” others said in 2004. Elections have consequences, yes. Elections are important, yes. But elections are not the pinnacle of history—for either good or for bad.
Our children should see that we are concerned about our country, but not that we are wringing our hands over the election. As Christians, we have an Apocalypse revealed to us. This isn’t it.
The second is to avoid tribalism. Many Americans see political candidates the same way they see their sports teams. They reflect in the glory of the winners, and despair with the losers. My side is all-good; your side is stupid and evil. If you have a candidate in this year’s election, explain to your children why you support that candidate. But also explain why other people would support one of the other candidates, and do so in a way that is as fair as possible to those views.