Politics surrounds us and affects us whether we like it or not. We live in a democracy with a single-member electoral system, whether we agree with it or not. Not talking about it will not make it go away. Moreover, today's youth are tomorrow's voters. Their ability to have a healthy critique of the political environment will better equip them to exercise their duty as citizens.
Thus, politics should not be a taboo subject at the dinner table. To discuss it, make sure to respect a few unwritten rules that will allow everyone to grow from the experience.
Talking about politics is all about listening. Your teenager has opinions, ideals, and dreams for society. Unfortunately, too often young people are told that they are too naïve or that they don't have enough knowledge and experience to have a say on certain issues. However, to be able to express themselves, your teen must feel comfortable expressing opinions different from yours without judgment on your part.
Do you have the right to say that you disagree with some of your child's ideas or positions? Absolutely. You just need to know how to express that disagreement well. Make sure you create an environment where everyone feels respected. That way, no matter what their ideas are, they won't face retaliation or ridicule for the ideas they express.
Let's use this as an example- your child shows interest in the idea that taxes should be higher to provide better services. This is a common political view held by teenagers in school who imagine the benefits of greater investment in the education system. However, if you respond to this position by noting that they could contribute more to the family's expenses, even if it's a joke, your teen may understand that voicing their opinion can have consequences, even in a safe environment.
Many parents are right to wonder if there is an age at which children are ready to talk about current events and politics. Valérie-Anne Mahéo, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Laval University, has conducted a study on this issue.
She notes that 60% of Grade 5 and 6 students surveyed said that politics is not too complicated a subject for them to understand. Their concerns will differ by age. For example, they may talk more about the state of the schools and protecting the environment. In any case, take the opportunity to ask them what concrete changes they would like to see around issues that concern them. What would be their first goals as mayor?
Do your teens have ideas that they want to share and do they want to get involved? Invite them to discover youth organizations. A number of by-and-for youth organizations exist to amplify the voice of youth in many areas of interest to them. Whether it's Youth Force, Youth Citizenship or Youth Environment, they will help your kids discover how to take their ideas further.
You can also help your teen do some research so that they understand the issues before they take a stand. Traditional sources of information have slowly given way to alternative sources that exist on social media platforms, such as Instagram or TikTok. However, the main issue in these cases is the difficulty of verifying the reliability of the information. Invite your children to verify the information by looking for what different sources say about it.
Radio-Canada has launched 2 YouTube channels in the last few years. These are for children/teens (MAJ) and young adults RAD). Kids will find verified and verifiable information presented in a format they will enjoy. For children ages 8 to 14, there is Le Curieux, a digital newspaper that explains current events to them.
Listen to them, suggest ideas without imposing them, encourage them to get involved. They will certainly be more reserved at first, but little by little, from one conversation to another, they will be more comfortable debating their positions.
Université de Montréal, Projet vivre ensemble et citoyenneté : Apprendre la vie démocratique