With election day coming up on May 17th in Oregon, the buzz of politics is everywhere. Depending on how old your child is, they might start noticing the signs advertising different candidates showing up along the road. Talking to your children about the voting process and politics can be a difficult topic for some if differing political views cause tension in your household. However, raising responsible citizens means broaching these difficult but necessary topics.
Here are some tips on how to approach the topic of politics with your children and educate them about the process.
Politics can be a divisive subject to talk about, and, as we have seen in recent years, it can get downright nasty. When talking to your child about politics, it’s crucial to stay positive and not inadvertently teach them to think about this topic in negative terms. Instead of bashing an opposing candidate, discuss what you like about your preferred candidates or party and how they may help positively contribute to the city, state, or country.
Discuss Democracy As A Whole
What drives the United States is our democracy, and kids can learn about that concept early on. Educate your child on the different responsibilities different government positions have and how they make our government work. You can talk about how voting allows people to choose their preferred representative to make decisions for the greater public. You can also share how electing certain officials represent the policies you believe in, which your child may be curious to learn more about. Be open to any questions they may ask—you might be surprised by what they ask!
Offer Balanced Perspectives
When you talk to your children about the upcoming election, try to provide a balanced perspective. Even if you are passionate about your political views, speaking respectfully about opposing sides or viewpoints teaches your child that people can talk about different opinions with respect and understanding. As your child grows, they will hear differing opinions about many things, so you can start to explain some opposing views when appropriate.
Talk About Your Political Viewpoint
This might seem like a touchy subject, but for kids who are still forming their own opinions, they should know what their parents believe. Young children may feel like they need to have the same opinions as their parents, but those views will most likely change as they grow up and form their own views. If they grow up in a household that communicates openly, they will not be afraid to voice their opinions and have respectful discussions with you. Telling them what you personally believe models the open and honest communication that parents should cultivate with their children.
Model Critical Thinking
Sharing your values is a great start to looking into why you side with certain candidates and their policies. You can talk to your child about the importance of being a responsible and well-informed voter. For example, if you value saving the environment, you can look into various candidates that share that value and how their policies can contribute to that effort. This teaches your children about thinking critically about politics rather than going with the flow or choosing someone randomly.
Encourage Your Kids to Share Their Views
Some elementary schools have kids share in creative projects what they might do if they were the President of the United States. This can help kids to start thinking about what they value. What are they passionate about? What do they want to be when they grow up? What are they interested in? Discuss what your kids believe is important and listen without judgment as they share their perspectives. That will make them feel like they have a voice and encourage them to share their views as they gain more knowledge and form more informed opinions.
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.