Sunday night's presidential town hall forum at Washington University could very well go down as one of the most vulgar public political debates in recent history.
Rape allegations, slurs for female anatomy, extramarital affairs, hypocrisy, vicious and angry personal attacks — these could go down before the first policy question is asked.
Why would any parent allow a child to witness this sort of degrading discourse?
The recent revelation of tapes of Republican nominee Donald Trump talking and laughing about kissing women against their will and "grabbing them by the p****," may have already raised some uncomfortable questions from children who have overheard the news.
What's the right age to let them watch while you discuss what they are hearing?
Basically, if you've given your child a phone or tablet that connects to the Internet, they are old enough to watch this debate with you.
Research shows that children are exposed to porn at younger ages than most parents would expect. They are likely to see clips of this debate through popular websites or social media sites, or hear it discussed at grade-school playgrounds.
They are growing up in a culture saturated by violent sexual language and images, even if it doesn't happen before our eyes. This debate is an uncomfortable but important moment to address some of this in the context of your own values.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is sure to address Trump's sexually predatory words, which is sure to provoke an even nastier response from Trump.
Members of his inner circle have already said he will go "nuclear" in his attacks about Bill Clinton's affairs and accusations of rape. Who knows if Clinton will bring up the rape allegations against Trump by a woman claiming he raped her when she was 13 years old?
Here are some of the questions that a child might ask hearing about such things:
What is rape? What does it mean to 'grab a p****'? Why would someone do that? Why would anyone support someone who does or says these things? Why do people have affairs? Why aren't people punished for doing these kinds of things?
There are straightforward answers to offer, depending on a child's age.
For a child aged 6 to 8, writer Deborah Roffman suggests saying:
Rape is a kind of crime.
Rape is a terrible crime that hurts people.
Rape is a serious crime where one person forces another person to do something they don’t want to do.
For children aged 9 to 12, she recommends starting by talking about what a healthy, positive sexual encounter between consenting adults is like:
“A sexual connection — which means when two people hug and kiss and bring their bodies close together in a special and unique way that gives them wonderful feelings of pleasure, called sexual pleasure — is supposed to be loving, caring, gentle, enjoyable, and something both people choose to do freely.”
With that as background, she suggests saying: “Rape is very, very different from that. Rape is when one person forces a sexual act onto another person against his or her will. Rape is always wrong, it’s very hurtful, and it’s a very serious crime.”
This may or may not lead to more questions or later discussions.
But avoiding the topic or trying to shield our children from the harsh and difficult realities of the world can often backfire.
One important way to teach them the right thing is to use real-life moments to talk about the wrong things.
It may make us sad or uncomfortable that this is the political climate in which our children are growing up. But having these discussions and explaining (repeatedly) about respect and consent is a way to raise better future leaders.