Explaining the State of American Politics to Kids

For many Americans, the political climate is as divisive as ever. This video, geared toward an American audience, speaks directly to kids and explains what's happening in a way they can understand. You can watch this video with your little ones, and use it to help them make sense of what is going on in the country today.

I am delighted to have secured the talents of a new animator and narrator for this piece, my very own ten-year-old son.

For more information on talking to children about politics, see this article.

Here is the video transcript:

You may have noticed your favorite grown ups getting pretty upset about the news lately.

If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, this video will help.

You’ll start to understand a little about politics, and what you can do to make things better.

Politics has to do with how the government operates, so let’s start there.


The American government provides a set of rules for Americans to live by.

Those rules are based on big ideas. There are lots of different kinds of big ideas.

Some are called Democratic ideas, and some are called Republican ideas.

When you are all grown up, you get to vote on which ideas will get used for rules.


We’ll talk about the differences between those ideas in about a couple minutes.

But first you should know that it’s good for citizens to talk about their different ideas.

Talking about ideas is how we build those ideas into rules that are good for Americans.

It makes for a healthy country, kind of like how exercising builds muscle and makes for a healthy body.


Sometimes bad stuff—like a tiny virus—can take control of a healthy body and turn it against itself.

When that happens, you stop exercising and get weaker. That can happen with a country, too.

Bad stuff can take control and turn the people against each other.

While they are bickering, they stop talking about ideas, and the country gets weaker.


The bad stuff has names like trolling, propaganda, and tribalism.

These are just fancy words for bullying, lying, and treating others like enemies.

Bad stuff is used by people who find ways to get money, fame, or power out of all the bickering they created.

It only takes a tiny number of people being selfish to weaken the country with bad stuff.


The bad stuff gets many good Americans to start believing bad things about each other.

This is a shame, because the big ideas that can help Americans are always about good things.

The big ideas are about making a country where people can be happy, safe, and doing their best.

This brings us back to how these ideas can be different.


Republican ideas are about helping people help themselves, using rules that change slowly.

Democratic ideas are about helping people more directly, using rules that change a little faster.

There are also Libertarian ideas, where people help themselves and the rules can change fast.

But for now, there only seems to be room for two sets of ideas—Democratic and Republican.


Both sets of ideas can be held by good people who just prefer different ways to do good things.

Both Democratic and Republican ideas are American ideas, from American people.

We can strongly disagree with fellow Americans on these ideas without being enemies.

That is, unless we let the bad stuff get in the way. In fact, it is the bad stuff that is the real enemy.


But there has been many kinds of bad stuff before, yet America has always worked through it.

That means we will eventually figure out how to work together again.

And then we can build our different ideas into good rules we can live by.

But only if we do the right things. And that is something you can help with.


When you hear someone using bad logic or saying untrue things, you can speak up.

When someone tries to stir up your anger or fear, you can ask them to stick to the facts.

When someone uses “Us vs. Them” language, you can remind them that we are all Americans.

That is how you can help get rid of the bad stuff. Then your favorite grownups will be less upset.


That will give us the chance to talk about ideas again, and you can help with that, too.

You can get informed by seeking out facts. It is best to get facts from more than one place.

You can find out why other people like their big ideas, and talk about why you like yours.

You can talk about what rules can be made from those ideas.

You can talk about the ways those rules might work, and ways they might go wrong.


You can get lots of practice doing all these things.

When you do, you will be the kind of person who makes a better America for all Americans.

And that is something you don’t have to be all grown up to do.