Most times it may slip your mind as a parent to watch how you talk about when your kids are around. Politics is a deep topic, the argument never ends. Deep in conversations with friends or other family members, it may not hit you that your child is also listening and watching. The younger ones may not really understand politics, but what you say shapes their perceptions about politics later in life. When it comes to talking to your kids about political matters, you may think that your 8-year-old would rather be playing video games or that your 14-year-old would prefer texting friends — but you might be wrong.
So, if you think your children are only interested in talking about kids’ stuff, think again. Elections will be here soon enough. In every election season, we see signs, posters, and ads for political candidates everywhere. Turn on the TV or radio or surf online and there is an onslaught of messages on everything from health care strikes, the economy, and jobs, terrorism to corruption.
As parents, you cannot expect your kids not to be influenced by this media blitz. Knowing what kids think about these issues and how they might affect your family is important. Talking about it not only helps to promote learning and develop critical thinking skills, but also lets you clear up misconceptions your kids may have or calm any fears about the future.
Talk About It
When discussing an election, talk about what you believe and why — and ask your kids what they think and feel. This shows that you value their opinions and want to hear what’s on their minds.
If their opinions differ from yours, that is totally fine. They also have a mind of their own. Use it as a teaching opportunity: Why do they feel that way? Can they come up with examples to support their view? Engaging kids in this way helps them to develop their own opinions and express their ideas.
More tips to keep in mind:
- Keep it positive. In the heat of an election season, strong feelings about tough issues can spark disagreements. Use the opportunity to show kids how to voice differences of opinion with respect, strength, and conviction. Say what you don’t like about a candidate or his or her position and explain what you do like about your candidate of choice. Encourage your kids to do the same. Focus on the positive attributes of your candidate — talk about what you’re for and your kids will too.
- Be reassuring. Perhaps teens may be worried by what the candidates and others are saying about the economy or the job market. They might fear the family losing the house or a parent losing a job. Listen to their concerns and provide reassurance and perspective. If you are facing financial troubles, be honest and then tell your kids (in an age-appropriate way) what you are doing to handle the problem.
- Suggest they get involved. Many kids are quite interested in and concerned about current events. Taking action helps them feel empowered and effective, and builds problem-solving skills. Help kids think of what they can do. Talk about how small things can add up to make a big difference. If the environment is of particular concern, for example, maybe they would like to find ways to help the family “go green” at home. Let your kids know that just like voting for a candidate can make a difference, so can working on an issue that you’d like to change.
Importance of Voting
Talking with your kids about important issues, the electoral process, and why voting is important not only gives them a mini lesson on how government affects the world, but also shows that every person’s opinion counts. Though they cannot vote yet, they will be able to someday, so it is important that they start becoming informed.
If possible, take your kids with you into the voting booth on Election Day to show them firsthand how the process works. Be a role model by setting a positive example that lets them know you value the right to vote. Show your kids the importance of voting — and they will grow up knowing that every vote counts.