Civic-minded parents may be wondering how to handle this year's Presidential debates. In years past, I know I've had homework stop to make my daughter sit and watch debates. Even though she is far too young for voting, at 13 she will be living with the consequences of this election soon enough.
But since this year's election includes a world-class liar, how we do handle this with our children?
1. Before the debate gets going, ask your child(ren) what issues they hope the candidates will talk or be asked about. What issues in the world are the ones they think are important?
And don't let them off the hook if they say, "I dunno, I don't really follow the news." Ask them what in their lives is important and wish the next President would be thinking about. I find that one problem with people engaging in politics is that they really don't know where the hell Aleppo is or what to think about Israel and Palestine. In reality, most of our lives are impacted by politics.
What will Clinton or Trump do for our public school systems?
What will they do to address the lack of access to healthcare for children?
What about homeless children?
Have your kids look around their world, their life and figure out what the President might impact. If they are worried about litter, don't tell them the President isn't responsible for that. Let it slide for now or brainstorm on how to connect it to the President (maybe a commitment to a more sustainable USA?).
2. Grab a notepad and print out the NYTimes list of lies that Trump has told recently.
3. Lies: Have your child(ren) keep track if any of the documented lies Trump has said get told again during the debate. If anyone is accused of lying (or you yell LIAR! at the TV), write it down. Then after the debate check in with Politifact, FactCheck, as well as the NYTimes and the Washington Post.
Guess what? You're teaching your kids how to do research online and be conscious political consumers.
4. Sex: Rumors have swirled that Roger Alles would prepare Trump with zingers about President Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs. A few days ago it appeared that Trump had invited Gennifer Flowers to the debate and she accepted over Twitter! Today Mike Pence says it was all a joke. But either way, I would not be surprised if Flowers or Lewinsky is brought up.
For me, my 13-year-old already knows about the Lewinsky affair. I swear it was in a history book! So I explained it years ago. She's also studying Hemingway right now, so one more affair mention is no biggie. That said, if it comes up address it in a manner that you feel comfortable.
5. Laughter: Keep track of these moments too. As Samantha Bee has warned, Alles is really, really good at creating a funny moment in the debate that lets his candidate off the hook from answering. Talk about how that happened, why Holt allowed it to happen, and if the other candidate tried to keep the candidate on topic.
6. Spin: You ever notice how in an interview someone will answer a question with something TOTALLY not what they were asked about? That's spin. They are spinning back to their prepared talking points. Keep track of those too. What does it mean that someone made that move? What was totally unanswered? Again, did Holt allow them to spin away from a question?
It seems like a lot of work to do while watching a debate, but I firmly believe it will help raise the next generation of voters, activists, and thinkers.
I'll most likely be live-tweeting during the event, feel free to join me or let me know how things are going!
One last thing...Momsrising created a debate bingo card too! Go get it.