Yesterday, my almost five-year-old asked me about Donald Trump. Used to hearing me muttering to the radio and amused by his surname (come on, whether you’re 5 or 45 you’ve got to laugh at his surname) she wanted to know exactly who he was. The conversation went something like this:
“Donald Trump! Who is Donald Trump?”
“Ermmm…. well, he’s a man. With an important job. But he’s not very nice.”
“President of the United States of America. A bit like being the headteacher at a very big school.”
“I don’t know. He says nasty things. He wouldn’t be a good friend.”
“Not everyone is nice mummy. Maybe he needs to sit and think about what he’s done.”
Not everyone is nice mummy. Quite. Out of the mouths of babes and all that. Satisfied with my half -baked response and happy with the idea of the president-elect sitting on the naughty step, she went back to her spaghetti hoops.
I, on the other hand, was left feeling more than a little dazed and confused by the exchange. What bothered me wasn’t her interrogation but rather my own stumbling response. I teach, write about and advise others on all things political for a living and yet I was completely unprepared for her interest. Until she asked, I hadn’t considered how I might talk to her about this, or any other area of politics for that matter. How do you explain current world events to a child (once upon a time, there was a man called Donald and a man called Nigel. They lived in a big, gold, tower…) especially when there’s no fairytale ending to sugar coat it? And in my current land of parenting, this stuff is pretty far down my ‘to do’ list. Persuading her to share with her sister is, right now at least, a more pressing concern. But our exchange got me thinking – how young is too young to get political with kids?
A survey by the polling company YouGov found that it’s not until the age of 15 that a majority of people think it’s ok to have started encouraging a child to take an interest in politics. At the other end of the scale, The Election, a picture…