The right to vote is of course a huge part of what it means to be a citizen of a democratic country.
But voting is just the start of being a responsible citizen, not the end! We should talk with our kids about being active members of our communities in every season, not just election season.
Now more than ever, talking about the voting process, elections and the political process in the United States with your kids is important. Did you know that Washington DC and Oregon both want to drop the voting age to 16? Would your teenager be ready to cast a ballot? Would they be informed? Are they even aware of how important civic engagement is and why it matters to their lives?
During an election year, politics are bound to be a topic in your home. Children learn a lot about the subject simply by listening to our conversations, but have you ever wondered how to teach your children about politics more actively? Schools are also expected to equip students with the skills they need to be effective citizens. But are they doing enough? Can they do enough? And inevitably won't some students leave school more prepared than others?
WHAT CAN YOU DO AT HOME?*
Talk About It. When discussing an election, talk about what you believe and why — and ask your kids what they think and feel. 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. 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 kids are 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. I
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'd 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.
Books about the government are a wonderful vehicle for introducing children to politics. Read these books together to start the conversation with your pre-schooler:
"Duck for President" by Doreen Cronin, illustrations by Betsy Lewin
"F is for Flag" by Wendy Cheyette Lewison, illustrated by Barbara Duke
Longer books help elementary-age children understand the political process and how the U.S. government works. It’s also important for children to be familiar with U.S. history and the principles of democracy. Here are a few MORE books about politics for elementary age kids:
"Bad Kitty for President" by Nick Bruel
"Grace for President" by Kelly S. DiPucchio, illustrations by LeUyen Pham
"Vote" by Eileen Christelow
"A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution" by Betsy and Giulio Maestro
"The Fourth of July Story" by Alice Dalgiesh
How adequately are your schools preparing students to be effective citizens, voters, and members of their communities? This is the subject of this week's "Raising the Bar".
*Excerpts of this blog come from from KidsHealth.org and Brighthorizons.com