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How to talk to your children about negative campaign ads

Posted: 9:50 PM, Nov 03, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-03 22:50:25-04

From campaign signs in front yards to political ads airing on your television, the candidates up for election and outside groups are making their final push before voters head to the polls on November 6th.

"Honestly, I get pretty sick of it," said parent Nick Kozloski.

"It's a highly partisan time right now. It brings up a lot of feelings for adults such as fear, anxiety, anger," said Scott Radtke, Director of Clinic Operations at Catalpa Health.

Radtke reminds parents that your children are watching.

"They're going to mimic our reactions to a lot of those ads." 

The ads concern some parents like Gena VanDomelen of De Pere.  

"It's kind of scary what we're instilling in our children with the messages that are coming out."  

"Some of them were mean," VanDomelen's 9-year-old daughter, Claire, said about the ads. She wonders, "Why were they ever invented?"

Questions like that can come during election season. Radtke works at a children's mental health clinic in the Fox Cities.

"I think communication is the key, because without that, kids are going to come to conclusions based on what they see and hear." 

Radtke suggests reinforcing beliefs.

"What values do we have as a family? What do we expect from each other in terms of how we handle anger, frustration, and that's our expectation and a lot of times that might be different than what we're seeing on the TV."

For older kids, "I think you can have more of that dialogue, why we vote, why we have the positions we do as a family." 

With a charged political climate, Radtke advises monitoring your children's behavior.

"Sometimes like it could turn into affecting relationships. It could lead to maybe bullying behavior, so important to really understand what's going on at school."

He said it's an opportunity to talk about how to handle disagreements in a healthy way.

"Needing to understand that despite political divisiveness, that there are opportunities and moments where we can come together." 

But for now, "You just got to try to tell your kids to stay positive and ignore the negativity," said Kozloski.

Both he and VanDomelen are sticking to monitoring what their children watch, and the nasty political ads aren't making the cut. 

Radtke said even after the election is over, you should still have a conversation with your kids to make sure they're not experiencing anxiety over their newly-elected leaders who may have been portrayed in ads as unworthy or unfit for their position of power.