Mills College sophomore Jillien Davey grew up in a Catholic home in Huntington Beach, where her parents, Bill Davey and Julie Williams-Davey, typically voted with Orange County's Republican majority.
In high school, Jillien joined Amnesty International. The more active she became in social causes, the more she realized she was a liberal. But it wasn't until this past August, over lunch at a Subway near the Oakland campus, that Jillien finally came out to her dad as a Democrat.
Her father was praising Mitt Romney's fiscal policies, while Jillien was busy talking up Barack Obama's performance as president. Name one thing he's done, her father demanded.
"I stood up and shouted, 'Dad, I'm a Democrat,' and
It can be awkward to navigate the parent-child bond when political views clash. Experts say it takes open communication and a realization on both sides that identifying with a particular candidate or political party is one of the most common ways for children to individuate. That process starts as early as age 12 and can continue into a person's late 20s, says Judy Levit, an Oakland marriage and family therapist.
"There are many issues where parents are invested in seeing their value system and behaviors passed on to their children," says Levit,
Still, it stings. When parents see their kids voting for "the other guy," it can be very disappointing. But, Levit says, it doesn't mean you haven't been a good parent. "Perhaps it means you've done a really good job helping them become who they are," she says.
That's how Bill Davey sees it. He may joke with his daughter, warning her against "those freakin' liberals" and prodding her to join the GOP effort. But it's only because he expects her to be an informed voter, he says, especially since she recently became president of Fem Dems, a campus club for feminist Democrats.
"I may be a registered Republican, but I have always voted for the candidate that best matches my beliefs," he explains via phone from Orange. "I'm trying to get her to think, especially now that she's leading a club, and people are looking to her for answers."
Overall, Davey says he's "proud of the road she has taken and her effort to accomplish great things."
The best way to teach young people to think critically is to provide them with all the information -- including your own beliefs -- and then sit back, says Barbara O'Connor, professor emeritus of communications and director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Sacramento State.
"That way, you acknowledge that you're raising a thinking human being," she says. "The mistake parents often make is forgetting that their kids are separate. You don't want them to be clones of yourself."
Young people learn from narratives, O'Connor says, so explain that you vote Republican because you are fiscally conservative instead of labeling all Democrats as "soft." "Tell your kids that as their lives change, they will have to confront the same issues you have," she says.
Another trick to open communication is being tolerant of differences, especially when it comes to hot-button issues such as politics, gender and race, Levit explains.
"Look, I always worried that my children wouldn't like vegetables and salad," she says. "As it turned out, my son wouldn't touch them for 20 years." Lesson? Spinach or Social Security, you can't force it on your kids.
Adam Banci, 35, remembers walking precincts with his parents, both Democrats, during the 1992 Clinton-Bush campaign. "They admired Clinton for welfare reform," he says.
Later, as an economics student in college, Banci realized that his views on debt and taxes were more aligned with the Republican Party. He voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and says his parents "didn't freak out." Even today, as the Romney-Obama election draws near, they respect each other's views. They just don't talk about them a whole lot.
"We have different political opinions, but they're my parents, and I love them anyway."