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5 Ways to Make Election Day Matter to Your Kids

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Being a child means not having to give Election Day a second thought.

They won’t be researching a candidate’s position on climate change or the minimum wage. Those endless political ads will rush right past their young minds. And they’ll never hurt their Facebook friends’ feelings with a tart political reply.

Children aren’t Democrats or Republicans. They’re just kids.

That doesn’t mean parents should let Election Day come and go without comment. The event can be a teaching tool for children as young as three if approached in the proper context. Sooner than later they’ll start caring about the issues up for consideration, and after that they’ll be tackling political fare in the classroom.

Who knows, you might have a budding activist on your hands. Why not prepare them for that process on the cusp of this year’s election?

1. Break down the onslaught of television commercials.
Children should learn why companies advertise on their favorite shows. Extend that conversation to the political realm. Why is Mary Smith saying those terrible things about that other person, the guy sporting that unfortunate shirt and tie combination? How does the commercial’s music make you feel? Are these smiling people telling the truth? Adjust the details to fit your child’s age, and you’ve planted the seeds for richer conversations to come.

2. Illustrate the political process with local laws.
Pick a contentious political issue from your neighborhood and recall how it impacted your family. Now, share key points in that process with your child. Emphasize the public’s reaction to the measure as well as its immediate and long-term results. Connect those dots for them, and they’ll see why those boring resolutions mean something.

3. Discuss the mistakes your local politicians have made.
We’ve seen too many examples of politicians going on apology tours to save their careers. Spare your children the intimate details. Instead, explain why the politicians are attempting to make amends and why voters may no longer trust they have their best interests at heart.

4. Engage in healthy political conversations with your partner.
Married couples may not bicker like Mary Matalin and James Carville, but their political differences could be helpful to their children. Discuss the issues of the day with your spouse or partner in a healthy manner devoid of name-calling or raised voices. The children may not grasp all, or even some, of the conversation. What they’ll pick up on is the tone and how you interact minutes minutes later. Keep your cool, show respect and your kids may do the same some day while talking politics.

5. Take your child along with you to the polls.
Modern elections allow for mail-in balloting, but parents may be better off voting old-school style. Bring your son or daughter along to your local voting place. Describe what each poll worker does and the rules associated with the process. Be cheery and leave the complaining for another time and place. Chances are your son or daughter will form a positive connection between voting and spending solo time with their parent.

Photo credit: Troye Owens via Flickr

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