Amid a political divide, words and actions matter when it comes to our kids

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 8:35 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - There’s no denying that there’s a big political divide across our country. And lately from our face-to-face conversations and social media posts, that’s becoming more and more evident. But we can’t forget that our little ones are watching and listening.

“They’re looking to see if we’re hypocritical, if we’re behaving in the way that we expect them to behave,” said Rachel Zentner, a licensed professional counselor at Behavioral Health Clinic in Wausau.

She said the responsibility to make sure children are learning how to engage in conversations of differing opinions respectfully, falls on us as adults and parents.

“It’s gotten more and more extreme as we’ve gone on as a nation recently, and I think it’s quite sad,” she added.

Zentner said children and adolescents are very impressionable, as their rapidly growing brains are laying the foundation for how they communicate and interact with the people and world around them.

“In psychology we use the tender age of six as sort of the jumping off point ‚” Zentner said, adding that it comes down to an age-old saying.

“If we’re telling them the golden rule, do onto others as you would have others do onto you, and then turn around and be mean to people in public or be mean to people through social media, they notice that and they’re going to pay way closer attention to our actions and behaviors then they do to our words.”

She said the hurtful comments and harsh judgements are more evident -- even at home with our families and in our circle of friends. And our kids are watching. Therefore in today’s political climate -- adults have a wonderful opportunity to be a positive role model.

“I’m always reminded of my favorite Mother Theresa quote which is, ‘If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.’ These conversations around the dinner table about how can we respectfully disagree with somebody. There’s ways to have civil discourse and we have to teach our children how to do that.”

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