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Talking Impeachment with your Kids

They’ve got questions. And you’re not sure you have the answers. So where do you begin when it comes to talking to your kids about all the commotion in Congress? First things first: Know that they know about it. Long gone are the days when kids were blissfully unaware of the news. They are essentially walking sponges. They’re getting bits and pieces here and there; some from social media, some from their friends, maybe even a little bit at school.

You can only control the narrative if your son or daughter is interested. And that’s a big IF. The impeachment process may be historic but it’s also complicated. And if adults can’t make heads or tails of it, there’s little hope that our little ones will be able to process it — or even want to. Some aren’t ready and if you try to initiate a conversation about it you are very likely to get a big fat “That’s boring!” And that is 100-percent ok. Other children, though, might be curious. They may have a sense that something big is going on and, while they may not want all the details, they’d like know a tad about it. And if they do, they’ll ask.

Before you answer, do a little digging. Pediatrician Marianna Eraklis encourages parents to “Ask them what they know and (what they) think about it” before diving in. And when you do, start small. A little answer here, a little answer there. That might be more than enough to satisfy their curiosity. If not, they’ll keep coming back to the well (you!) for more information. Feel free to layer on, so long as they’re the ones taking the lead.

One approach is to stick with the facts: We have two main political parties in this country, the President belongs to one of them. The other party thinks he did something wrong, and it is investigating. The President’s own party is defending him. It’s all part of, and very important to, the Democratic process on which this country and our Constitution is based.

Not enough? Tell them what he is accused of doing: Democrats believe he tried to pressure a foreign leader into investigating Joe Biden, Mr. Trump’s political rival. If the President did, that would be like inviting another country into our election process for the President’s personal gain. Mr. Trump denies the charge; he says he didn’t pressure anyone. His fellow Republicans say even if he did, it doesn’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

At the end of the day, who’s telling the truth? It’s up to Congress to find out in a two-step process. The House of Representatives called witnesses to testify and produced two documents called “Articles of Impeachment.” Members then voted in favor of the articles, which meant the President was Impeached. That is the same as being charged with a crime, but does not mean the President must leave office.

It just means the issue moves to the Senate for a trial, which is where the process stands now. Democratic House members will make a case against the President, with all 100 U.S. Senators serving as the jury. What about the judge? That role is filled by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Unlike the House, the Senate is currently led by Republicans so the two-thirds vote needed for a guilty verdict is unlikely, which means the President would stay in office.

Has this happened before? Yes. Three other U.S. Presidents have been in this same situation. Richard Nixon, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton all faced inquiries. Nixon resigned before the House voted. Johnson and Clinton were both formally impeached by the House, but neither was found guilty in the Senate.

Earlier, we said one approach is to give a “just the facts, ma’am” approach. The other is to inject it with opinion. That is every parent’s perogative. Experts, though, encourage steering clear of invective and name-calling as much as possible. And be prepared: Although likely, it’s not a given your child will agree with you, particularly by the time they hit their teens!


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