There’s no doubt that our children are aware of the comments made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on a bus in 2005 while filming a segment for Access Hollywood. It’s been all over the TV, social media, and probably the school yard. Our kids are likely to have questions about what he said, why he said it, and how it affects them.
Here are some takeaways for parents on how to navigate a tricky conversation like this with our children.
1. Be Honest
The words in the audiotape are severe and out of bounds of common decency. It’s likely that your older children have heard those words before, although hopefully not in that context. While you may want to soft pedal the exact description and definition of some of those terms, you need to be as honest as you can with your kids. If you don’t explain things properly and fully, someone else will.
2. Ask Them Questions
It’s important to talk to your children about hot button topics like this, but it’s also important to listen to them. Surely they have questions about the context in which they were said, and what they mean for the presidential race. You can also use this opportunity to delve into topics that might naturally flow out of this conversation, like a discussion on trying to be cool, sexuality, or talking about someone’s body.
3. Make it a Teaching Moment
This is a chance to impart some lessons. Your children can learn that even when they think a conversation is private, someone might be listening. The things that we say matter, and if someone overhears them, it could be devastating to a relationship or an opportunity.
4. Explain That This Behavior Is Unacceptable
It’s concerning that when a person in power says something that hurts others, our children might see it as a sign that that behavior is acceptable. They might want to emulate that behavior. We must reinforce to our children that no matter who the person is — celebrity, athlete or politician — their actions and words matter. And when they make a mistake, their behavior is not to be condoned.
5. Teach Them to Respect Others
Our kids need to know that it's degrading to talk about women in this manner. And it’s degrading to talk about men in this manner, as well. It goes both ways. Discussing someone’s body and solely viewing them as an object is not okay, and creates an atmosphere of hostility and the potential for something very bad to occur. Children need to be told early and often that they need to respect boundaries.