What Should I Teach My Kids About Elections?
Yup, I’m going there. It’s an election year, how can I not? While I’m hesitant to even say the word ‘election’ for fear of being tarred and feathered by both sides, there is no denying we live in the greatest country in the world. We have the freedom to vote, and that should be celebrated every chance we get. That said, I can already feel the tension rising from your side of the screen, so let me quickly alleviate your fears. I will, in no way, shape, or form, be addressing anything political, polarizing, or upsetting. This post will only address how to teach our children about voting, and how to get them excited to participate someday. So take a deep breath, slap on your ‘I voted’ sticker, and here we go!
Where to Begin
Children of all ages can understand voting pretty easily. I have three children. For example, if we have movie night, we take a vote for which movie to watch. Even my two-year-old participates in this activity and sometimes manages to not pitch a fit when she is outvoted. So that’s a win, right? You can practice voting with your family frequently. What restaurant to choose, which park to go to, what book to read at bedtime, where to take a family trip, the opportunities are endless. These little votes provide a great opportunity for you to jump in with a quick explanation about elections too.
The Art of Disagreeing
Once a child learns what an election is and how it works, it’s essential to teach the concept of polite disagreement. Unfortunately, the art of ‘agree to disagree’ seems to have fallen out of fashion, but JEEZ good manners are never out of style. The world is a unique, colorful, eclectic place and our differences are what make the world go ’round. We might have lost sight of that in the midst of this particularly challenging year, but we have the chance to teach our children a better way. Many children play sports, and good sportsmanship is a great way to illustrate respectful disagreement. At the end of the game all the kids (pre-Covid, anyway) slap hands and say ‘good game’ regardless of who won. Isn’t that what should happen following an election?
What’s Important to You?
Elections provide a great opportunity to have family discussions about the issues that are important to you. Again, this is another chance to demonstrate the respectful disagreement side of things. You can talk about your opinions, your beliefs, and explain why you feel your way, without mentioning how much of an idiot the other candidate is. Try to keep the discussions positive and encouraging. Ask your children how they feel about certain issues. My children have become quite the eco-gurus since starting school at Island Prep, so that is a great topic for us to discuss as a family.
Add a Teaching Moment
I love turning well, everything, into a learning opportunity. You can use an election as a basis for math questions. Get out some goldfish, pennies, bottle caps, whatever you have on hand, and use them to illustrate a vote. 6 goldfish vote for the purple bowl and 9 goldfish vote for the yellow bowl. Who wins? There are also a ton of books out there about elections. I found this Cat in the Hat book and this one looks great too!
Cast That Vote!
Lastly, don’t forget to involve your children in the actual voting experience. If you’re voting by mail, show them the ballot. If you’re going in person, take them with you. I took my 7-year-old with me the last time I voted, and they gave her a ‘future voter’ sticker that she was so proud to wear. If I’m being totally honest, voting is something I frequently take for granted. But seeing her excitement to come into the voting booth and to wear the sticker reminded me just what a privilege it is! So tell me, have you talked to your kiddos about voting? Head over to Instagram and Facebook @islandprep and tell us!
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