Children tend to pick up on the big things happening around them, so it’s only natural they’d know the U.S. is in the midst of a major political moment, even if they haven’t had explicit conversations about it. From overheard discussions to classroom lessons to TV commercials to yard signs, there are many indications that it’s election season, but what kids may not know is what, exactly, it all means. Fortunately, parents can help with that.
Talking to children about the election can make the process more understandable and lay the foundation for them to develop into engaged, informed voters as adults. These conversations can also help kids understand the right and privilege of voting and what it means to be a member of a community. Kids can see that we're on edge. They are naturally self-centered, and they'll assume your stress is about them. Be honest and tell them, "Dad/Mom is a little nervous about the election." It's helpful for kids' social and emotional development to hear you naming your emotions. It’s never too early to start your child on the path to becoming an engaged citizen. Kids are more perceptive than many adults realize, so they pick up on what’s happening around them and naturally, have questions.
A simple way to break down voting is that it’s the idea of voicing your opinion on something, like when people pick their favorite picture in an art contest to help determine the winner. Parents should use examples their kids can relate to. It also important to share about the history of voting. Parents can explain the U.S. election and voting process to their kids by teaching them about the history of voting, the different milestones and hurdles many groups had to overcome to get the right to vote, and why it’s so important to engage in the process.
Involve kids in the voting process! Take them with you if you vote in person, or fill out your ballot with them if you vote by mail. Talk about who you’re voting for and why, and why you think it’s important to vote. Observing and participating in the process is a great learning experience for kids, who also may appreciate getting a new sticker. Even if you can’t take them to your polling place, show them what you did that day.
Posts written by the Team ELM family!