If there’s one thing that is at the forefront of most American’s minds right now, it is how good the reboot of Supermarket Sweep is!
Just kidding. It’s obviously the election. (Although you should totally watch Supermarket Sweep because it is A DELIGHT!)
Presidential elections are always big news, but they seem to be growing ever more looming in every aspect of our lives. You can’t watch tv, browse the internet, or seemingly have a conversation with anyone without politics coming up these days. And unfortunately, these conversations usually aren’t positive.
To support Boys & Girls Clubs staff in dealing with whatever happens in the next few weeks, BGCA compiled a TON of great stuff on a new Election Resources page at BGCA.net/ElectionResources, including webinars, safety tips, and information for parents. Youth Development got in on the fun too, sharing some of our favorite Civics activities and a new guide, How to Talk to Youth About a Traumatic Election Season. Today on the ClubX Blog, I’ll be excerpting a section I helped write for that guide on staying non-partisan when talking to youth about elections. Enjoy!
As we engage in conversations about political topics with youth, we must remain non-partisan. Non-partisan means not expressing a preference for any political party or candidate. While in your personal life, you likely have a preference, you cannot use your position as a Club staff to influence youth toward those preferences. Boys & Girls Clubs are subject to specific laws about this as nonprofit organizations, and since Club staff are representatives for Clubs, you could inadvertently put your government funding at risk. To learn more, Club staff can read the BGCA Election Season Toolkit. Here are some tips about how to stay non-partisan while talking with youth:
- Don’t express support for specific parties or candidates. This includes how you speak about the election, but also any physical items like candidate shirts, signs, or stickers.
- Focus programing and activities on systems and processes. Learning about how to participate in our representative democracy is vital for young people, so you should include activities about the history of and how to vote, levels of government, and the importance of advocacy. For specific resources on election-related programming, read this ClubX Blog post:
- Steer the conversation toward a discussion of youth experiences and ideas instead of parties or candidates. Discussions about political issues are likely to occur, especially with teens, and that’s ok. Instead of just repeating talking points or focusing on individual people running for office, guide youth to focus on the issues that they are passionate about and why. Use them as opportunities to see parallels, not divisions, wherever possible.
- Give youth the tools to research the issues they care about and decide for themselves where they stand. Teaching youth how to find credible news and policy sources will empower them to become an advocate both now and in the future. Encourage youth to take the issues they’ve learned about and turn them into action steps, both at the ballot box and beyond.
- Answer questions that youth may have without influencing them one way or the other. Youth may need help in understanding the things they’ve heard or read. You can answer questions about specific terms or ideas in a non-biased way and encourage youth to draw their own conclusions.
Here are some bonus tips for the time surrounding the election from our friends on the Child Safety team! Find more in the 2020 Election Safety resource on BGCA.net.
- Focus on the needs of your youth and teens, not your own feelings. Use the Whil app, free for all BGCA.net users, for mini-courses on self-care strategies and other wellness topics, and consider these tips for taking care of yourself during social unrest.
- Revisit and know your Club or Youth Center’s safety procedures. Practice and discuss your safety procedures with both staff and youth so that everyone feels safe knowing there is a plan in place for any emergencies that may arise. Have a plan for who you can call for help in your community if a youth or teen has been emotionally or physically harmed. In the event of any unrest, make a plan on how to safely arrive to and leave your site.
- Allow youth and teens an opportunity to process what happened, and their thoughts and feelings. Validate that you are listening and respond with empathy. Share the Crisis Text Line in case youth don’t feel comfortable talking in person.