Why I Let My Daughter Watch Last Night's Presidential Debate (and the Important Conversation We Had Because of It)

With the recent political scandals making the topics covered far more R-rated, many parents have opted to keep kids away from political coverage and the debates. Here's why I went forward with it.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Presidential Debate
Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Presidential debates used to be a great lesson in civics, current events, and the issues that face our country. That's why so many teachers assign kids the task tuning in and taking notes for discussion—and many parents insist on it anyway, to help our children become more educated. But unfortunately, this election seems to have been hijacked by a reality show producer intent on creating big drama, at the expense of substance. And it's making me (and so many other parents around the country) question our decision to allow our children to watch the debate.

Just as my daughters were getting home from school on Friday, the news broke of Trump's hot-mic talk of sexually assaulting women—and at first, I freaked out at the thought of actually having to explain the words, their meaning, and why it's become a serious part of our presidential election (and having to discuss the Clinton scandals, knowing Trump would bring those up as well). I went through the trouble of looking at her global studies teacher's webpage, to see if he'd cancelled the assignment. No such luck. I wondered if my daughter would get anything worthwhile out of the debate, or if it was just going to be 90 minutes of scandal.

In the end, we made a split decision: My 12-year-old could stay. My 9-year-old had to go in the other room, at least until the ugly business had been discussed in the debate (not that she really cared enough to watch two people standing around arguing). Before we turned on the debate, we had a good discussion with our older daughter about what had happened, what was likely to be said about it during the debate, and why it was such a big deal. It served as a jumping-off point for a larger and very important conversation about sexual harassment and assault—and what to do if she's ever in a situation like the one described in that video. It's not a comfortable conversation, to be sure, but a key one to have with our sons and our daughters. I just wish that it wasn't still necessary to have those discussions, especially around a presidential election.

Lisa Milbrand is Parents.com's In Name Only blogger, and the mom of two girls.

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