When Politics Can Potentially Divide Family

Advice for tackling sensitive topics
October 5, 2020 Updated: October 5, 2020

Dear June,

My 32-year-old, college-educated daughter and I have a wonderful and loving relationship. However, she attended an East Coast Ivy League school and was significantly influenced towards an extremely liberal and progressive philosophy. She describes herself as a social justice warrior. I am a woman of faith and a conservative, also college-educated and successful in my professional life. For the last 10 years, we have avoided all political discussions so as to protect the love we have for one another. However, in light of the radicalized movements that are threatening to destroy our American way of life, I can no longer stay silent. Is there a way to engage in a conversation with my daughter that is respectful and honest? I am afraid that it may create a significant divide between us, but I am also afraid for her to be involved in some of these movements. I would appreciate your feedback.

Sincerely,

Brenda V., Arizona

Dear Brenda,

Previously, I advised against allowing political issues to divide families, but there are of course ways to have these sensitive conversations and times when it is important to speak up.

I would start with deep listening so you understand what your daughter thinks and feels about the issues. You might start by asking her questions and just listening without judgment.

When you respond, I would recommend doing so in writing, for three reasons:

First, it will be less emotional and you may be able to better maintain a warm in-person relationship.

Second, writing allows a higher level of accuracy because you can quote directly and include links to relevant sources.

Third, you can ask very pointed questions that require her to be precise in her response. This is important because the arguments for many of these issues disintegrate as soon as a clear definition is formed. And I would tackle only a small piece of an issue at a time because this allows for more specificity.

Also, as you engage, keep in mind that within each of these topics, there is a grain of truth, but it is as though people are looking at this grain under a microscope and forget that it is just one tiny part of this vast, complicated world. Once one steps back from the microscope, one can appreciate that there is a much larger picture. But some people never step back, and they become consumed with their tiny perspective. However, by first acknowledging the legitimacy of the grain of truth, you will show that you understand her perspective, albeit with a different viewpoint, instead of being completely opposed to her ideas. From this common ground, you can point out your concerns about the extremes these myopic perspectives lead to.

Where possible, bring up your concerns with empathy for all sides, as this shows that more conservative viewpoints are not inherently unkind; one of the moral claims of social justice is that those who subscribe to its views are more compassionate. (However, I would not try to point this out unless you have really strong examples that you think would resonate with her. Just show your compassion.).

It may also help to frame the conversation as a loss and gain equation. For example, if we make universities really inclusive, will this mean the loss of meritocracy as the current gold standard? Would this loss worth be it? (But first of course, define what inclusive and meritocracy mean).

And lastly, be sensitive to what she is feeling so you don’t alienate her, and tailor the conversation so it focuses on what she may be questioning or topics you think are most likely to break through to her.

Sincerely,

June

___________

Dear June,

I am a female college student in California and have a question I would like to ask you about trying to find a traditional life in a place where tradition is routinely torn down.  I am both religious and conservative, and recently I’ve been realizing more and more that the future I want is a traditional one. I’ve been struggling with how to find people who feel the same, especially on a college campus. In the past, I believe there was an expectation and social standard for how to meet people, how you were expected to act and date, but now it feels like one big free for all that only hurts everyone involved. What can I do?

I.K., California

Dear I.K.,

Yes, in the past there were much clearer dating protocols, many of which have been thrown by the wayside. But you can set your personal boundaries with confidence because men really respect women they see as virtuous.

However, since your politics and faith put you in the minority on a California college campus, I can imagine it may take some time to encounter kindred spirits.

A few ideas for meeting people: See if your campus has a Turning Point USA chapter. Turning Point is a conservative nonprofit focused on politics and economics. If you have not already done so, finding a local place of worship may also be a way to connect with people who share your faith and values. Also, keep your eye out for events that might offer a chance to meet like-minded people, including workshops in traditionally feminine areas like sewing and cooking where you might find female friendships. Perhaps too you have prior connections—old friends or even family—whom you can nurture closer ties with.

And, while there is great intellectual benefit to being in a learning environment where you hold a minority perspective, if circumstances permit, you could also consider switching to a school with more like-minded students. However, I would not rush into such a decision, as challenging circumstances do ultimately bring out the best in us. And certainly it is not great for society if our institutions of higher learning become segregated based on politics and religion.

Sincerely,
June

Do you have a family or relationship question for our advice columnist, Dear June? Send it to DearJune@EpochTimes.com or Attn: Dear June, The Epoch Times, 229 W. 28th St., Floor 7, New York, NY 10001.

June Kellum is a married mother of two and longtime Epoch Times journalist covering family, relationships, and health topics.