‘Brexit has made our children lose faith in grown-ups’

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When my daughter Clio woke up to the news that Britain would be leaving the EU last week, she was confused.

She is 11. So she’s never known a time when her country was not an integral part of Europe.

Friendships are a big issue for girls this age – so when we talked about it, she saw it initially in those terms.

She said she didn’t like the feeling of suddenly becoming the outsider and getting stuck on the edge of a group who she used to be close to.

Three years makes a lot of difference in the perspective of a young person. My older daughter Lily, 14, was less puzzled, more angry.

‘Why do stupid old people get to decide what happens to me?,” she raged over her toast before school.

For me, as a mother, I don’t remember a political decision seemed to have a such a direct impact on the life chances of my children.

Our children feel as well qualified as adults to decide on their futures.

My immediate worry was that we would be worse off as a family in a ways we couldn’t possibly start to understand yet.

I could not believe that overnight the girls’ right to study and work in 27 other nations had so suddenly snatched  away.

But there is an upside – and that is that this referendum has flipped a switch.

The childishness, name-calling and immaturity of some of the decisions which led to Brexit have made our children feel as well qualified as adults to decide on their futures.


Until now, there has a low turn-out for young people at the polls at elections. Before the referendum, a study by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex found that as many as 42.4 per cent of  young people age 16 to 24  said they absolutely no interest in politics.

But this week, Clio has come out of school demanding to know what will happen now  David Cameron had resigned (her teacher had updated her class during the day).

In our house, politics has overtaken the usual 11-year-old topics of conversations and Clio has pondered why, since he’s out of a job, Barack Obama can’t swoop in like a superhero and fill the job.

She has questioned why 13-year-olds (the age she thinks kids are old enough to make their own minds up without their parents) can’t vote when 80-year-olds, who won’t see the consequences of their decisions  can.

Meanwhile Lily jumped at an invitation from a friend to join a young people’s Brexit protest this weekend in way she never would have done before.

My children, and probably yours, will look back at Brexit as one of the seismic events in their childhoods and one which will change their futures in way we can’t begin to fathom.

But what is immediately tangible change is that the referendum has engaged children in wanting to make decisions about their own lives.

This move, which has so shaken their belief in the wisdom of grown-ups, has helped them realise that if the world is going to be better place, they will have to arrange that for themselves.

  •  Tanith Carey is author of ‘Girls Uninterrupted: How to Build stronger Girls in a Challenging world,’ published by Icon, price £7.99. You can buy it here
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