No matter which candidate you support, there is no better time than a presidential election year to teach older children and adolescents about civic responsibility, critical thinking, and integrity. These activities all characterize people who live the good life, those who report the highest level of life satisfaction and happiness. Therefore, teaching virtue in an election year is very much worth the effort.
A “Themed” Family Meeting
If you’ve read my articles in the past, you know I am a strong advocate for regularly scheduled family meetings. Family meetings are a time to celebrate successes, compliment achievements, problem solve challenges and explore individualized family values. You might consider a family meeting themed around the presidential election.
One way to approach the discussion is to ask your child what they observe about each candidate’s performance during debates, forums, news bites and advertisements related to character traits the candidates’ exhibit rather than on their political platforms.
While this may seem a daunting task, here are some tips to help you guide the conversation.
Six Societal Virtues
Seligman and Peterson identified six virtues that can be found in virtually all societies. These include:
WISDOM- acquiring and using knowledge
COURAGE – accomplishing goals in the face of opposition
JUSTICE – building community
HUMANITY –befriending and tending to others
TEMPERANCE – protecting against excess
TRANSCENDENCE – connecting to the larger universe
Each virtue is demonstrated through consistent character strengths of an individual. Let’s look at those strengths.
COURAGE includes integrity, persistence, bravery and vitality.
JUSTICE involves teamwork, fairness and leadership.
HUMANITY manifests through generosity, loving and being loved, and social/emotional intelligence.
TEMPERANCE embodies forgiveness and mercy, humility, self-control and prudence/discretion.
TRANSCENDENCE encompasses appreciation of beauty in all things, gratitude, hope, spirituality and humor.
While no person exemplifies all the strengths mentioned above, it is helpful to identify the top and bottom strengths of an individual. For your family meeting conversation, you might want to look at the top three and bottom three strengths of each candidate from both parties.
A Few Ground Rules
If your family is not skilled at family meetings, some ground rules are worth mentioning. Family meetings need a rigid start and stop time where all family members are present. Once the meeting time is set, it can’t be changed unless there is a life or death emergency, so plan accordingly. No personal devices are to be used during this or any other family meeting (turn off TV or music, don’t answer phones etc.)
Each member gets an opportunity to identify the strengths of each candidate, without interruption, comment or judgment from the other family members. After everyone has had a chance to talk, a more general discussion can begin.
The time factor in family meetings is very important. There is much less resistance to family meetings when they start and stop promptly. If time runs out before everyone has finished, it is better to schedule an additional family meeting (same time, next week) than to extend the meeting.
A Nice Surprise
You might be surprised to learn how your kids are reacting to and absorbing the campaign information they are exposed to. The purpose of this family meeting is not to persuade anyone to come to your way of thinking but to learn about each individual’s personal reaction to this exciting electoral process. It only happens once every four years so let’s grasp the opportunity!
Daniel Trussell, Ph.D., MBA, LPC, NCC, CPCS is author of The How Families Flourish Workbook and How Families Flourish. He is a certified Professional Counselor supervisor and conducts training for both professionals and families in incorporating the findings from positive psychology into daily life. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. [website]