Things I’ve heard come out of my kids’ mouths over the last couple months:

“He’s mean.”

“He wants kick people out of this country.”

“Why does he talk like that?”

“That’s not very respectful.”

“Is he going to be President?”

…Guess who?

“Trump” has penetrated the vocabulary and conversation in our home – and not in a good way. I’ve never heard a 5 and 8 year old with such strong opinions about whom they DON’T want to be the next president.

Here’s the lesson: They are picking up on news stories I have in the background, my exasperated sighs and frustrated comments. They are discussing this stuff with their “buddies” at school. My kids, 5 and 8 years old, are seeing, hearing, and internalizing what is happening with our presidential election – at least as it relates to one of the candidates.

While my initial reaction is “yikes, I wish they didn’t see, know or think about this stuff” I also see the opportunity – opportunity to be honest about the process, to highlight the fact that people have different perspectives and views, to reflect on what our family values are and why. This is an opportunity to expose them to larger social and community lessons about tolerance, acceptance, and compassion and how that does or doesn’t come to life in people’s words and actions.

So, we talk about it. I’ve tried to pause each time I hear one of their anti-Trump comments. We take a minute to unpack it. To ask why he might have said something, to look for truths or untruths in opinions and comments my children share.

Here’s what it comes down to. I DON’T want to teach them to judge or make assumptions about another person’s motives or intent. I DO want to teach them to be rooted in our family’s value system, while recognizing and respecting others might have different values.

As a family, we took time a year ago to define our values and post them in our living room. They are: healthy, helpful, respectful, and kind. This has proven a helpful discipline tool as well as a teaching tool for situations like “Trump” talk. As we grapple with making sense of behaviors, understanding if we agree or disagree with comments or opinions, we check against our posted values.

My hope for us all is that, while difficult, we can keep our discussion and conversations about the impending election positive, hopeful, and most importantly respectful. Our kids are sponges – they mirror what they see and hear. Our reactions and comments are teaching them how to “be” in a democratic society. We will be working on this in our household. Goodbye sighs and frustrated comments.