Photo Credit: Getty ImagesPresidential election discussions are heating up, even amongst preschoolers.
Talking about politics with your kids can seem like a daunting experience. Where do you even start? A few week's ago CityMama posted three tips to help talk to your kids about the presidential election. I think one of the most important points of her post is that your conversations and explanations are age appropriate.
With that in mind, we have some additional, easy-peasy tips to help you speak with your kids about politics and the upcoming election:
- Keep it simple. In keeping with the age-appropriateness theme, don't get too technical unless your kids are ready for it. Just like discussions about babies and sex, only answer the questions they are asking. Stay simple. If you are trying to explain the voting process to young children, illustrate voting at home: Have your kids vote on what you will watch during family movie night, or what they want for dessert. When we explain the role of the President to our six-year-old son, we use terms he'll understand: "He's the boss of the United States but he has a big team of people that help make important decisions. And there are some big decisions that all of us get to help make by voting. It's our job to vote." One of my favorite sites to get kids jazzed about the election is The Democracy Project by PBS Kids. And Scholastic News has an amazing Election 2008 site for children, with kid reporters and video reports.
- Relate discussions to their everyday life. Is your city voting on any measure that could impact the parks that your kids play at or the schools they attend? This is a simple way to explain to your kids how everyone in your city who votes plays an important role in making decisions about things that are important to your child. With older kids, you can broaden this to a state or national level. Is there legislation that can impact the requirements for teens to obtain a driver's license? Is there a new bond election for expanding public libraries? Talking to them about issues that are important and relevant to their lives helps them understand why everyone needs to use their voice in politics. As CityMama mentioned in her post, Poligots.com has some excellent ideas to show your kids how they can get involved in elections/the political process.
- Bring your kids to your polling place on Election Day. Let them share in the excitement. Little kids can wear your "I Voted" sticker with pride. If they feel left out of the voting process, create a kid-polling place a home, make ballots and let them decide who they think should be president. You could add some fun things to the ballot and let them vote for their favorite movies, books, singers, foods and desserts.
- Share your views but don't be upset if they disagree. If you're voting for John McCain, tell your kid. But explain why this presidential hopeful is important to you. Your job here isn't to convince your kid to share your views. It's to show your kid why you have a certain stance. And it little Betsy disagrees with you, so be it. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. If anything, keep an open mind. You might learn a thing or two about your first grader's uncomplicated and unclouded thought process. And you should also mention to your kid that they shouldn't get angry with others for not sharing their opinions, too.
- Get historical. Provide context to political events. Whatever your political views, you can certainly explain to your kid that this particular presidential election will make history: the United States will either have its first African-American president or the first female vice-president. Make sure your kids know they will be a part of this important milestone. And if your kids are old enough to dig deep into the voting process, you should pay a visit to the U.S. Electoral College site (from the National Archives) and check out the teachers' section for answers to all the questions your kids might ask.
If you do talk politics with your kids, make sure to keep it fun. One of my favorite memories is being very little and getting to go into the voting booth with my mom and dad to watch them check off their ballots. I couldn't wait for my chance to vote on my own (I even pretended to vote at home.) I know that my parents helped instill that level of excitement, which I still carry with me. We need to start building that foundation early with our own kids.
Updated: Shine user Khaliela has been very active in getting her kids involved in politics and the election process. I asked her to share more advanced tips to help educate your kids on this topic and she did! Thanks Khaliela! Please check out her awesome post.
Do you talk to your kids about politics and the upcoming election? Any fun stories to share?