Parents and Politics

By Isabella Guerriero

Two weeks before the election I walked outside my house to find the scariest Halloween decorations of all, and I knew it was time to write this article. I couldn’t sit by and let a blatantly racist symbol, a Trump 2020 sign, sit outside my house and allow people to think I supported a man who calls black people “thugs.” I decided to find out if there were other teens out there who had the same issue as me. Having different opinions than your family members is always difficult because most of the time you love them no matter what, but when human rights and other major issues are the topic of disagreement, where do we draw the line? Where do these differences in beliefs and values come from? What effect could they be having on our family dynamics? 

In order to find out some answers, I took to social media to get a better grasp at how many people actually have different views than their parents. Out of 326 people, 124 people said they have different views than their parents and 202 said they have the same. That means 38% of the people I know have the same issue that I do. I decided to get a more in-depth idea of what was going on in these households. 

The first person I interviewed was in a similar situation to me; a democratic teen with a conservative father. The current political climate makes it easy to disagree, with the election and social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter taking over global headlines. When your dad uses offensive terms and thinks it’s ok because “protesters are destroying American values and breaking laws,” what do you do? First, it’s important to understand where your parent’s opinions come from. In this case, the father is Georgian and in his country, it is normalized to have racist and sexist beliefs. It is common to believe that people use their status as an excuse to not work, and that it’s a privilege to be black. Being surrounded by people who believe these ideas are true is no excuse to be racist or sexist, however, it does give some insight as to what socialization has done to make the person’s father conservative. Compared to the interviewee’s democratic, pro BLM, and anti-Trump beliefs, the dad is extremely right-leaning. However, their political differences don’t get in the way of their relationship, with them saying, “I may never understand or agree with his political opinions, but I understand where they stem from and I can hate those views, but he’s my dad and nothing will ever change the love I have for him.” 

Another person I interviewed was in a similar position. They are left-leaning while both their parents are extremely right-leaning. As a person who identifies as transgender and bisexual, their perspective is extremely different from their parents, who are “stuck in their ways.” The political climate once again brings out the raw, honest opinions that people have, revealing that their parents believe BLM is a terrorist group and wish they could “scam as good as Trump.” When asked if politics are a forbidden topic or a friendly dinnertime conversation, they said their father tries to bring it up, but they would rather avoid it because they know it will lead to an argument. Similarly, another person I interviewed named Abigail, who is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community says she must call out her father when he makes an ignorant comment, but has to let it go eventually because he is set in his ways. 

The differing opinions don’t always have to be between democrats and republicans, but can also be between parents and children who identify with the same party. For example, one person I interviewed says they identify as a liberal while their parents are moderate democrats. The difference between them is that the parents do not think radical change is attainable, so they would rather support candidates such as Biden and Bloomberg, while the interviewee is settling for Biden and would rather someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as president. A common excuse from the parents is their age, saying “we grew up thinking this way, so that’s too radical for us” or thinking it’s too late for them to change their minds. However, the election has brought out the similarities in their opinions, as they all are anti-Trump. Their parents are becoming more liberal because of Trump’s actions and are able to share information with their children and give them another perspective. This is the only person who did not say they avoid politics, and rather they embrace the differences in opinions and use it as a learning experience. However, this could be because of the many issues they do agree on and the overall parties their views align with.

Even with democratic liberal parents, William says he is much more left-leaning then they are. His coming out as bisexual and participation in a BLM protest changed his parent’s behavior towards him. His parents’ political beliefs are centered around their religion, as both were raised as Catholics. This difference in opinion is causing a rift in the relationship between William and his parents, creating a further divide between them. 

A common theme throughout my research is that people follow the rule to “never discuss politics or religion in polite company.” When families are aware that they disagree about a certain topic, the child tends to avoid bringing it up. However, in some cases, the parent will push the topic onto the child, which is not ideal because the conversation will almost always turn into an argument. If parents treated their kids like adults and had equal discussions with them about what they believe and where they are coming from, relationship dynamics could be improved. When will parents realize the “your just a kid you don’t understand” phrase isn’t going to cut it anymore, especially for our generation? Realizing we have as much access to information as they do, and quite frankly might be more educated on certain topics than they are, is something that should be understood.

Allowing kids to make their own informed opinion is part of growing up. Bombarding kids with biased viewpoints throughout their childhood is not benefiting them. Rather parents should be providing them with information and letting them interpret it. The same goes the other way; if a child never hears any information about current events, then they might grow up to be ignorant. Parents forcing or even suggesting their children have the same opinions as them is dangerous and unfair. It’s a beautiful thing to have different views than your parents; it proves you researched, educated yourself, and understood the full story, rather than listening to what your parents have to say.