I get downright angry when I hear coverage of the impeachment drama playing out in Congress these days. Especially when I listen to a particular portion of the hearing and then hear a news reporter tell a completely partisan, biased, alarming version that didn’t happen, in my opinion. It’s not surprising that our anger might play out in our relationships around the house—even without our awareness. We need to be careful and pay attention to signs of relationship tension.
I grew up in the days when Paul Harvey’s daily program would be introduced with the words, “Paul Harvey: news and comment.” That meant Mr. Harvey is about to tell you some news and then clearly separate which part was his commentary. I also remember Frank Reynolds’ angry words to colleagues during the reporting about President Reagan’s assassination attempt; “Let’s get it straight so we can report this thing accurately!” he said. He was a friend of James Brady who had erroneously been reported as being killed in the assassination attempt. I miss hearing the news read with what I remember to be higher standards of accuracy and neutrality.
One current source for news and comment today that I appreciate is the website Fatherly. A recent post gave specific suggestions for parents about communicating with children about the current impeachment drama based, in part, on the writings of Dr. Carole Lieberman. The same site had written a similar article a year earlier, which reminded me just how obsessed some people are with the entire subject. I long for the days when elections begin to matter again more than campaigns, resistance and grandstanding for impeachment.
Patrick A. Coleman (who wrote the post on Fatherly) encouraged parents to exercise control of their own emotions. Offering solace and love should be enough, he writes, because younger children don’t have the intellectual maturity to deal with the complex issues being debated. Reassure them that everything will turn out and that they can feel free to go and play, Coleman says.
Older children may have specific questions, which should be answered. Lieberman suggests being specific about an issue, like two groups don’t agree about how the country should be run. A little piece of advice like, “It is important to do a good job and if you don’t, some people might want to fire you,” could help explain what’s going on. I agree that answering questions is important. I don’t believe in telling a child to go and play in response to a specific question. Neither do I believe that giving a boatload more answers than they really want or need is wise either.
Security and safety are big issues for children. Coleman and Lieberman rightly point to calm reassurances that can restore a sense of security in the heart of a child who might be distressed by the debate or the reaction of her parents. Remember that it won’t do much good to reassure your child if you can’t rein in your emotions long enough to give them an answer. Telling them everything will be okay in a strained voice coming from a red face with veins popping out on our necks would be a mixed message. They can’t believe our words over the anxiety they witness.
The drama being played out before us has high stakes. Our children’s emotional health is a high priority also. Exercising some self-control and giving some clear, concise advice is a good use of what would otherwise be an alarming display of the democratic process. Let’s find our way through this mess and help our children find their way, as well.