Psychologist's take on kids watching the debates

9NEWS @ 4. 10/10/2016

KUSA - A lot of questions have surfaced after Sunday night’s debate. Everything from word choice to body language is under scrutiny. 

The debate brought up everything from the 11-year-old tape of Trump describing sex assault to attacks on Bill and Hillary Clinton over marriage infidelity.

The Trump campaign even brought three women who had made sexual accusations against Bill Clinton to the debate, but said it was all about his opponent.

So what does this look like for kids – or really anyone – who wants to watch the political process?

9NEWS turned to child psychologist Dr. Sheryl Ziegler for her take.

“I really think each parent needs to decide their child’s emotional level of being able to handle some of the things that are being said, because they really are quite unprecedented,” Ziegler said. 

She says the average middle school child doesn’t have the ability to understand why adults are behaving the way they are or using the terminology that they are.

“All of that looked intimidating – it looked like bullying and so I think it would be very confusing to a middle-school or younger child to understand why that’s even happening on a debate stage,” Ziegler said. 

She says it’s a time for parents to be the role models to their kids, by leading them in really healthy discussions.

“It’s an opportunity for a parent to both talk about the real political issues that are happening in our country and around the world – but also, character. What do you do in the face of adversity? What do you do when somebody is not treating you kindly? What do you do when you are opposing somebody? How do you do that in a respectful way, but a way that you are able to communicate our points?” she said. 

“I think that both young boys and girls who may be watching this, can gain a ton out of this if they are talking about it with their parents and their parents are really proactively pointing these things out.”

Ziegler believes there are other ways to keep your kids up to date, besides watching the debates. She says that young boys and girls can gain a ton from the debate – if parents lead them in healthy discussions.

“I think the truth is, some adults are having a hard time wrapping their minds around what is going around here and why are people conducting themselves in this kind of way, so I would take caution. I think there are other ways to keep a child – even a high school child – very up to date on what’s going on," said Ziegler. "By not watching a presidential debate – it’s not putting kids behind.”

(© 2016 KUSA)


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