With the election less than 3 months away, it is getting harder and harder to ignore the ongoing ads, news, and media concentration regarding the presidential race. As a mom of 2, I have always felt comfortable discussing politics with both of my children. My now 18 year old is of age and able to vote in the next election, so I feel that it is important as a parent to discuss with him with the upcoming election, what it means for him, his needs, and the causes that he cares about.
My 8 year old also understands that voting is a very powerful thing and is both a privilege and a right, and I have been very vocal, not just about my favorite candidate, but on how important voting is.
Not every parent out there likes to tackle the topic of the election, voting, and politics, but I do feel that we owe it to our kids to explain to them the process and make them aware of some of the issues that will be affected by this year’s elections in our own cities and towns, as well as the country.
I have developed 5 ways to discuss the upcoming election with your kids in hopes that it will create a dialogue that is positive and teaches our children about the power of voting:
1. Share Your Experiences
My son loves when I tell him about the story of when I voted for the first time at the age of 21. It was in 1996 and I voted for Clinton. I brought him into the voting booth with me to help me vote (he basically poked the holes I told him to), and it was from that moment on that I’ve always kept him in the loop of the issues surrounding the elections. I’ve been telling him this story for years now, and since he was a part of my first voting experience, he now wants to experience it himself. It’s a special bond we share because I haven’t had the chance yet to take my 8 year old voting with me, so it’s a pretty important event to him, and now, he is excited about voting.
2. Let Them Know The History
I don’t have to go on at length about the history of voting as it pertains to women and blacks. I think it’s important for us as parents to share what happened in the past to enlighten our children for the future. No matter your color, sex, or affiliation, we can all appreciate the people who came before us who fought for the right for all of us to vote. Share this history with your kids and research the history with them so they understand the importance of voting.
3. News, Schmooze
With all of the craziness on the news, I don’t allow my 8 year old to watch it (although we do listen to NPR and CNN in the car sometimes). We play a game called ”Little News”, in which we all go around and discuss an interesting news story we heard about. Lately, the talk has been about the presidential election and both the Republican and Democratic Conventions, and I plan on watching a little bit of BOTH the conventions with my brood. This is a great time to discuss the election and get to know what your kids’ concerns are.
4. Create a Make Shift Ballot Box
Last election, my daughter was 4, and we made a makeshift ballot box using a shoe box covered in construction paper with a hole cut out. Then we made red (John McCain) and blue (Barack Obama) strips out of construction paper, and she voted, along with all of her dolls and stuffed animals in her room. Then at the end, we counted the ballots and I certified the election. By the way, John McCain won our makeshift election, which goes to show you that while fun and educational, it may not be very accurate!
5. Debate, Anyone?
In my home, we have a Mayor of the Month, and we vote on the Mayor via debating. The Mayor has to declare what they will do for the house in order to get special perks and privileges and must debate the other person to prove verbally why they are the best person for the job. Since we have started this, my son has won every time (and he has about a 50% approval rating at this time), but that’s not the point. It sharpens their communication skills and gets them interested in how the government is run. My daughter is determined to win next month, though. She’s been practicing her verbal skills.
If you allow your kids on the Internet, Time for Kids has a great Election 2012 site that allows your kids to vote for the president online, learn more about each candidate and their running mates, and gives an Electionary which breaks down all of the election lingo. How cool is that?
Politics and the election may not be an easy topic for you to discuss with your kids, but not to discuss it, in my opinion, is a waste. Educate, inform, enlighten, and encourage your kids to ask you questions about the election and get them to understand the power of voting.