Tuesday November 2nd marks an exciting Election Day here in the United States. If your children are old enough, how are you sharing the day’s events with them? Here are some suggestions to open a window of opportunity through which you can find out what or whom influences your child’s opinions, expand their knowledge base, share ideas, and maybe even bond a little! Keeping in mind the age appropriateness:
1. Utilize Election Day as an opportunity to ask your kids what they know about “government”. Can they name the three branches (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial)? Do they know their two State Senators, or Congressional Representatives? How would they respond if you asked them to debate a pro or con side of a current issue? These are just a few questions that can provide a good glimpse about what your child is or isn’t learning in school, and how you might applaud or supplement their knowledge base at home. Younger kids can be taught these concepts in very basic ways while older kids can be challenged with thought provoking debates.
2. Consider inviting your child to imagine that they were an elected official and ask them what they would do to solve a specific problem or proactively improve the country. As a parent, you may hear comical answers such as “I’d ban all homework”, or thoughtful answers giving you insight about your children’s knowledge and personal beliefs. I have always enjoyed hearing my son’s opinions and ideas. I got an idea of what he was picking up from my sphere of influence, and what influenced him from academics, his peers, or news stories.
3. Election Day celebrates our right to make choices. Ask your kids which candidate they would choose. Then ask “why?” Some kids will make their choice based on the preference of a parent or best friend? If this is the case, a parent might evoke a child’s opinions and encourage them to be leaders of their own beliefs instead of followers of other’s beliefs. Parents might consider observing for this pattern of behavior in other parts of the child’s life. Whether kids elect a candidate, choose an extracurricular sport, or pick the perfect college, we ultimately want them to know how to research their choices, match them with personal beliefs, and make intelligent, informed decisions.
4. Consider taking your children to the poll with you. I did this with my son when he was 8 years old and built his excitement by telling him I thought he mature enough to tag along and learn. He was thrilled to be included in a grown up activity and this alone increased his attentiveness to the short lessons I was teaching him. I was allowed to take him into the ballot box and even let him punch the holes in the card to choose our candidates. He was over the moon!
5. Elections, as we have observed this year, can get rather ugly with contemptuous ads, gross exaggerations, and insults. Ask your kids what they think about these strategies? Do they think that they are justified in order to win? Why or why not? Ask your child what alternatives they would implement to run an ethical and moral campaign? When you hear all the good things they know they should do, pat yourself on the back. That is likely the result of your good parenting!
Let us know how these ideas work for you and share some of your own in our comments section.