How Should You Watch the GOP Debates with Your Kids?

Posted by on Mar 15, 2016 in The World We Parent In | 0 comments

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Last week, a headline from an NPR story caught my eye: “Should Kids Watch the GOP Debates?” I consider this one of the easiest questions asked throughout our electoral process. Actually, I don’t even think NPR asked the right question. The question should have been phrased, “How should you watch the GOP debates with your kids?”

One caveat before we go any further: most of what I’m about to write applies to children who are old enough to take at least a minor interest in the election. By the age of nine or ten, a good number of kids might express an interest in the purpose of the seemingly uncountable number of debates popping up on their household television screens. They may also wonder who the people featured in the debates are, why they’re on TV every night and why they seem so angry and prone to insults. Most debates are broadcast past the bedtimes of most younger children, on the other hand, and in the event they are awake, potentially offensive remarks will likely sail past their comprehension. Questions about grownups who yell at each other are easily managed at this younger age; parents can say, “they ought to behave better” and most kids will move on.

It’s a different story with older kids. Their understanding of the world around them is more complex. They will get more of the references. They will put together the facts of base behavior, rabble-rousing and vote-getting and come up with success. In a way, it can be dangerous to permit these more mature minds to watch these debates and the media coverage of the election.

That’s exactly why we have to let our kids watch—and we have to watch this election with them, as well as engage them in continuous discussion about it.

Parenting is teaching. It’s shaping a human being, equipping a girl or a boy with all of the tools necessary to go out into the world and function as a productive, responsible adult. One of those tools is judgment—including the ability to exercise good civic judgment in whatever society to which one belongs. Like so many other skills, this judgment doesn’t appear magically at age eighteen; it has to be taught, and practiced. Parents, this election provides the time and place to impart some key lessons.

I’ve watched as many debates as possible with my kids (until their bedtimes, which are usually extended a little on debate nights). On the numerous occasions I’ve been stunned by the language and immaturity of the rhetoric, my kids have witnessed my vocal reactions, and then they’ve heard my explanations for those reactions. They’ve asked questions, and I’ve answered them. My fourteen-year-old son gets the inappropriate references, and I was less uncomfortable with his hearing the allusion to Trump’s penis size than I was about the fact that such a thing occurred in a presidential debate in the first place. As for offensive comments, that one didn’t bother me nearly as much as Trump’s call for keeping Muslims out of the country or the one to commit war crimes by killing the innocent families of terrorists. Those called for immediate, serious explanations and denunciations to my son rather than mere glib, disgusted dismissals.

My ten-year-old daughter wasn’t in the room for the private-parts low point, but she’s heard plenty of race and religion-based jibes.

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Uncharted Parent on PBS NewsHour

Posted by on Feb 10, 2016 in The World We Parent In | 0 comments

It happens every presidential election cycle. National and even international media gather in New Hampshire for the first-in-the-nation primary, and if you move, you’re apt to be interviewed.

Lisa Desjardins of PBS NewsHour came to my house a few days before the primary to interview me about my thoughts regarding state of the middle class as it relates to the Democratic candidates for president. The piece below includes more than just my perspective, and if you stick with it past the 4:10-minute mark, you’ll get to see and hear not only my views on the presidential race, but my kitchen, my family and what we ate for dinner.

The voting is over here, but most of you have yet to go. Make sure you get out and vote—and take your kids to the polls with you if you can!

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A First-Hand Lesson in Making a Difference

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in Education & Learning, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

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How many adults don’t participate in politics at any level because they think, “What’s the point?” And how many kids learn powerlessness in the face of government bureaucracy before they even reach voting age?

What if kids learned how to effect change before they even made it to high school? What if they could get a real-life lesson in how this happens, and what if they could even participate?

Some kids in my town got this chance this week. In a classic budget dispute, it came to light that the town budget committee, looking to make some cuts from the schools, had floated a proposal to cut the Chinese-language program. Chinese is currently taught in grades 7-12 and is one of four foreign languages taught in the middle and high schools. As my eighth-grade son and a number of his friends are in their second year of Chinese study, this development immediately grabbed my attention.

The lesson began.

With the help of a friend and her son—the latter is my son’s friend and also in his Chinese class—we assembled a list of kids and parents connected to the Chinese program. By the end of the day, we had contacted as many people as possible connected to the program, filled them in on the situation, asked them to attend the next budget meeting and provided them with additional information. My son and his friend spent considerable time over the weekend preparing remarks to explain to the committee why they had elected to study Chinese, why they ought to be allowed to continue and why it would be unfair to discontinue the program now. They also talked to their friends about the meeting to gin up additional support.

At the budget committee meeting Monday evening, kids and parents who opposed cutting the Chinese program filled the small meeting room.

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First in the Nation

Posted by on Jan 20, 2016 in The World We Parent In | 0 comments

NH Presidential Primary Marker

Over the past several weeks, I’ve traveled out of my home state of New Hampshire a few times, and I’ve spoken with quite a few folks here who are visiting from outside the state. A number of people have asked me what’s it like to live in New Hampshire during primary season, so I thought I’d devote a post to answering that question.

A little background: it’s 2016, which means it’s a presidential election year. (You knew that, right? Don’t tell me if you didn’t.) Each of the two major political parties—the Democrats and the Republicans—must elect its candidate to square off in the general election in November. These primaries begin, by tradition, with the Iowa caucus (this year on February 1) and the New Hampshire primary (February 9). Campaigning seems to start the day after the previous presidential election, but it begins in earnest at least a year before the primary. As the date gets closer, campaigning ramps up.

Because Iowa and New Hampshire go first, our states’ contests have a lot of influence. Presidential hopefuls want to win right out of the starting gate, or in a weird year like this one, they at least want to do very well. So the candidates spend a lot of time here, and they tend to have solid ground organizations with paid staffers and volunteers trying to round up support.

What does that mean for the New Hampshire citizen? Here’s what life looks like on a daily basis:

  • If the phone rings, chances are it’s not a friend, relative, or someone trying to sell you something. It’s either: a) a campaign looking for support of one kind or another; or b) a poll.
  • The phone rings every evening with political calls. We can get as many as four or five calls each evening. This goes on for months.
  • Personally, I have established rules for answering polls. I do take some of the them; I consider it a responsibility that goes along with the privilege of living in the “first in the nation” state. But I will only answer one poll per night. I will only answer polls administered by live humans—no robots. And I won’t answer them during family dinner. (Hey, if I miss one, I can just pick up the phone twenty minutes later when the next pollster calls.)
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5 Things I Accomplished This Holiday Season

Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in Growing Up, Holidays, The World We Parent In | 2 comments

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Welcome Back! I hope your holidays were a welcome respite from the craziness of the rest of the year. Or, if you like to keep things going at a good clip, I hope you eggnogged-gifted-skiied-partied-relatived-toasted-feasted-gingerbreaded until you could barely eek out a “Happy New Year” when the time was right.

As for me, I managed to squeeze a few parenting-related accomplishments under my expanding belt this holiday season. Some I anticipated; most I did not. Here goes:

  1. I taught my fourteen-year-old son how to binge-watch a TV series into the late hours. I’m so proud.
  1. I got a glimpse of what my ten-year-old daughter will look like when she’s sixteen via the dressy pants, blouse and shoes I bought her to wear for her fifth-grade chorus and band concerts. It was tough to find appropriate clothing that wasn’t awash in glitter, but when we finally did—wow. Who is that sophisticated kid?
  1. I decided that my goal of changing my lifestyle in several ways to be healthier overall by my next birthday wasn’t challenging enough, so I ate my way to a few extra pounds in December just to make things more interesting. Okay, so it wasn’t so much an actual decision as it was outright gluttony. Alas, the result is the same.
  1. I talked to my kids about Donald Trump. Why is this an accomplishment?
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Thanksgiving

Posted by on Nov 25, 2015 in Holidays, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

Image courtesy Saratica via Flickr.com.

Image courtesy Saratica via Flickr.com.

It doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving. The world feels kind of sad and scary right now, not joyous and abundant like it should when the holiday season commences.

Maybe that’s appropriate. It’s worth noting that joy and abundance aren’t always present for many people. As we revel in our holiday feasts this week, let’s take a moment to think of those close to us who aren’t as fortunate and those far away who feel less secure than we do. How can we meet deprivation with open hearts? How can we meet those who sow fear and destruction with determination and reason? And how do we teach our children these things without frightening them beyond measure when we’re so afraid and uncertain ourselves?

Heavy thoughts for Thanksgiving week, but it’s a heavy November. At Uncharted Parent, we’re going to enjoy our turkey and trimmings, but we’re also going to talk about what we might do to help others this holiday season. It may not be much, but goodness knows the world can use any help it can get.

Uncharted Parent wishes everyone a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving.

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