Parents put on the brakes when talking politics with kids

By and

If the old adage of never discuss politics or religion in intimate circles holds true, this election may have provided the perfect time to follow it.

Area parents said the intense and often controversial tone of this year’s campaign has changed their comfort level in discussing politics either in front of or with their children.

Erin Sullivan and her wife, Gretchen Randolph, have a unique family political dynamic. Sullivan is a longtime Republican and Randolph is a Democrat.

Randolph is running for a local Advisory Neighborhood seat. They’ve adopted three children, and Donald Trump’s opposition to same-sex marriage and strong opinions on immigration translates to Sullivan feeling she is being pushed the left.

She had hoped to avoid speaking about politics with their three adopted children, Manny, Donny and Karen, but can’t avoid the topic no matter how hard she tries, she said.

“Well, our 4-year-old (Donny) knows his mother is running for an ANC seat, so he says, ‘Go, Mommy’ every time he sees a Randolph sign and ‘Boo’ when he sees the opponent’s poster. We try not to talk about the presidential candidates but my oldest always says, ‘Trump is a bozo.’ ”

The couple did give credit to local schools saying their civics classes do an excellent job of explaining the electoral process and getting students to discuss national issues.

Erin Smith said she wouldn't let her kids come to the polls this year
Erin Smith said she wouldn’t let her kids come to the polls this year.

Erin Smith from Ellicott City, Maryland, said this campaign has changed everything. She took her now 15 year-old son to the polling station during the previous two elections, but not this time around, especially with her seven year old daughter in tow.

“I wouldn’t want either of my children, particularly Lucy, hearing what is said about the candidates, by the candidates themselves and other voters. He [Trump] turned everything into an R-rated movie.”

However, as adolescents approach and even cross the voting threshold, talk of Trump and Clinton seems unavoidable.

Olivia De Pandi, 19, voted for the first time today. She said her friends at the University of Maryland don’t speak about politics that much but it’s an issue that inevitably comes up more around adults. But she’s learning, especially from watching her parents navigate the topic, when not to bring it up at all.

And Nicolo De Pandi, Olivia’s mom, said politics can sometimes be a social deal-breaker.

“I know what friends I can speak with and which ones to avoid. There are families we have literally had to cut out of our lives because they get so emotional. And the ones we can’t, I end up making several trips to the bathroom during dinner to avoid confrontation,” she said.

Mira Jackson, a poll worker, has three children, two of whom are voting age. She has been less vocal this election than in previous ones.

“I’ve learned that it’s not my right to preach,” she said. “My kids are old enough to make decisions for themselves, and all I really do is ask them to try to identify what issues are important to them. Each generation has its own priorities.”

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