Dear Family Coach: I'm a diehard Democrat, and my husband is a moderate Republican. We usually manage to keep politics at bay in our home, but this election cycle has been a struggle. Our kids are hearing a lot about the candidates at school and want to talk about the election. However, I am weary of the discussion getting out of hand. How can I ensure that the conversation remains civil when I feel strongly that there aren't two rational opinions to be had? — Election-Fearing Mom
Dear Fearing: Well, unfortunately for you, we live in a democracy. You know, a government of the people, by the people. A fair election requires there be more than one candidate, and more than one political party. Clearly you are passionate and thoughtful about your beliefs. But you have to remember that your children are not you. You can inform them of your position but can't brainwash them or tell them to ignore their father's opinions.
One of the problems in this country is that we are afraid to have difficult discussions with people who have different positions than us. We fear the discourse could run amok. Help your children learn to have a respectful conversation, where they can talk without yelling or insulting others. Teach them to talk without being judgmental. Teach them to agree to disagree.
You can start by being a role model and opening the topic up for discussion in your home. To keep yourself in check, avoid discussing the personalities of the candidates. Talk about the core issues and values of each party and candidate. Talk about what characteristics would make a good leader of the county. Ask your children open-ended questions to tease out their values system and thoughts on important issues. Don't lecture or berate them for different opinions.
Instill in your children the ability to ask questions and decipher information for themselves. That's the only way to ensure a thriving democracy, and their ability to contribute intelligently to it.
Dear Family Coach: Last year, we decided to get a dog for our introverted son. We thought it would be nice for him to have a friend of sorts that doesn't require a lot of socializing and chatter. And we thought the dog would act as a buffer around the neighborhood, helping him relax with other kids. The plan was working out perfectly until we learned he's allergic to his beloved dog. How can we handle this situation without breaking his heart and undoing the positive benefits of having the dog? — Deeply Saddened
Dear Saddened: Oh, how terribly heartbreaking. Poor guy. This will be difficult, but there are ways to help minimize the blow.
Let your son help find a new owner for his scruffy friend. Knowing that the dog will be well-cared for and loved will give him comfort. Before passing him along to the new owner, have a going away party. Take loads of pictures, and celebrate your son's relationship with him. If possible, ask that the new owner to send updates and pictures periodically.
Once the dog moves out, there will be an empty space in the house and in your son's heart. Try to find a substitute to fill that hole. Ask the doctor if there is another hypoallergenic animal that might work for him. If not, talk to your son about finding another comforting presence in his life.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.