It’s presidential election time, a singular opportunity for Christian parents to teach their children important lessons about how we relate to our leaders, and how our leaders relate to God. Our reaction to the election returns will speak volumes to our children about our understanding of submission and sovereignty. Have you thought about what your words and actions will teach your child when the votes have been counted?
If Scripture can be trusted, God works sovereignly through the democratic process to put in place our leaders. The Apostle Peter admonishes us to submit to our governing authorities - to render not just tolerance, but honor unto Caesar - that our witness might be preserved among the lost. We often resist this notion on the grounds that our leaders are not worthy of our submission, particularly if they didn’t get our vote. But by submitting to them we are actually submitting to God, placing our trust not in the leader, but in the One who instituted government for our good. Certainly, submission to an evil despot would raise serious ethical questions, but that discussion falls outside what will transpire in the U.S on November 6.
speaking peace to our children
With that in mind, parents might want to weigh how we are shaping our children’s perceptions of God and government during this season. Because, developmentally speaking, children live “in the moment”, they tend to over-value both the good and the bad as they encounter it. So if we act like the sky is falling because our candidate is not elected, our child will feel exaggerated fear. If we act like the kingdom of Heaven has come to earth in the form of our new president, our child will feel exaggerated assurance. Having lived through multiple presidencies, a parent knows that a president has only so much influence in the grand scheme of things, but a child does not.
Because of this, consider taking a different approach to the election with your kids, one that allows them to process it without the hype. Be cautious about using overly emotional speech about politics or politicians in front of them. Talk about the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates. Ask them their opinions on the issues and the candidates. If you’re married, let them hear you discuss the issues as a couple. Talk about what the Bible has to say about a particular issue, about what it means to look for a candidate who advances the common good. Talk about the importance of not joining in when friends speak disrespectfully about a candidate or a sitting president.
Talk about our dual citizenship – how we serve an earthly kingdom and a heavenly kingdom. Talk about the responsibilities we have to both of these kingdoms and their relative importance. Talk about how Christians can best influence their culture through both the gospel and the political process.
And then moderate how you react to the election outcome. The aftermath of a presidential election gives parents a unique opportunity to teach either respect or cynicism to our children. If our candidate wins, teaching respect for leaders and the political process will be an easy proposition. If our candidate loses, teaching cynicism will be a major temptation.
a balanced response
Did your candidate win? Be thankful, and try to avoid having the “excessive celebration” flag thrown. Be respectful of the defeated candidate in front of your child. Speak of your hopes for your new president, acknowledging that ultimately God is in control of the future.
Did your candidate lose? Be careful not to model disrespect or cynicism in the wake of your disappointment. Speak respectfully of the winner in front of your child – both now and for the length of his term. Speak of your hopes for him, acknowledging that ultimately God is in control of the future.
Above all, pray together that the Lord would guide our new president in the path of wisdom and that He would bless him richly – regardless of whether you voted for him or not.
Though we do not yet know the winner of the election, God does. And He is neither alarmed nor relieved by the outcome. Rather than represent a presidential election as an epic battle between good and evil, we can teach our children that whoever ascends to the White House, a good and trustworthy God sits enthroned upon the cherubim. The president is just a man, after all. There is great comfort in this thought for a child, and it is real comfort. May there be great comfort in this thought for moms and dads as well.
Parents, what have you found helpful in talking to your kids about the election? Share your thoughts.