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20-40-60 Etiquette---Political tee shirts for children?


By Callie Athey, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION:  My family is a bunch of news junkies. Long before the likes of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders emerged onto the political stage, my preteen children have enjoyed watching the 2016 presidential race coverage. My 11-year-old son has expressed “support” for one particular candidate and wants to purchase a T-shirt (supporting the candidate).

I respect his interest and desire to be involved in the political process. Is he too young to wear such a shirt? Should I worry what other people think (i.e., do I share his political views even if I don't know my own position yet)? Is it appropriate for him to wear it in public? 

CALLIE'S ANSWER: Why do you care what other people think? Your child is 11 years old and interested in politics; how cool! Let him be his own person.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Another teachable moment, but then again, it sounds like you've already had many of those kinds of discussions. It is neat that your son is already thinking about the political process and what he believes on his own. You can let him wear the T-shirt but also explain how divisive politics is right now and how people might not respond positively to his opinion. Then make sure he's ready to respond to any of the reactions, including questions or disagreements about his political opinions. If he's not ready to handle those, then gently dissuade him from wearing the shirt, but not from holding his opinions. And, whether you agree or disagree with him, keep on talking.

HELEN'S ANSWER: It is great that your son has an opinion! Hopefully you can assist him in learning more about all the candidates, including the one he supports.

If you disagree with his choice, then feel free to tell him why, and let him think about your reasoning. You can always throw out a disclaimer stating that his choices are his own.

It sounds like you already have excellent family discussions. If he feels strongly enough to wear political shirts, then by all means, let him. His friends will let him know if they think it is inappropriate.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Richard Rosser, author of “Piggy Nation,” a series of books, a cartoon and more on etiquette: In these days of political apathy among voters of all ages, why would you want to stifle your son's interest by censoring his political views?

As I see it, you have three options: 1. Ban the T-shirt and risk alienating your son. 2. Let him wear the shirt and risk being embarrassed in public. 3. Get your own shirt that says, “Views and opinions expressed by my children do not necessarily reflect the official position of the (insert your last name) family.”

Good luck and congratulations on raising a child who's interested in the political process!

Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email

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Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›

Lillie-Beth Brinkman

Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman Read more ›

Callie Athey

Callie Athey is 20-something and is a graduate from the University of Oklahoma. She has worked in various positions, ranging from Event Coordinator to Environmental Health and Safety Assistant. Currently, Callie is an Executive Assistant to a... Read more ›