From casual conversation to heavy TV ads, the 2020 presidential election is unavoidable and your kids are likely drawing conclusions. Let’s explore how to make election season educational, and hopefully less stressful, for kids* of any age.
[Related: A British expat mom on teaching kids manners]
What do they already know? What have they heard from friends, at school, on TV and online? Kids may or may not realize that elections have the potential to change their lives. Assess their knowledge, fill in the blanks, clear up misconceptions and prepare them with coping tools.
Give them the vocabulary
Talk about what it means to live in a democracy—a place where the people choose (vote) how they want things to work by making official (election) decisions. We all have rights, and to keep these rights we have responsibilities. Our laws are the rules and our representatives legislate, meaning they make the rules official based on our input.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
Who are the candidates? What assumptions are made because of media, T-shirts and yard signs? Consider the campaigns your kids are exposed to and discuss how the messaging is or is not ok. Is a candidate’s behavior as important as their ideas? Is the color of their necktie or style of their hair important? What are the important characteristics of a President?
[Related: Help kids choose kindness and respect]
Ask your kids what issues they care about using questions free of your opinion to keep the conversation open. Respond with invitations: “Tell me more about why you think that,” or “Can you give me examples of what you mean?” Dissent is a tremendous learning opportunity. Teach them to voice their opinion with conviction and respect. Share your top interests while supporting their right to their priorities. Explore how opinions are sometimes supported by facts and other times by emotions. When we disagree with another person’s stance, can we get into their shoes to find a kernel of shared interest?
Bring it home
What rights and responsibilities do family members have at home? How were the house rules established? Do any of your kids’ rights infringe upon anyone else’s (e.g., is one child relegated to the back seat while another has exclusive access to the front?)? A democracy must balance the needs of all its members.
When I grow up...
Ask your child how they feel about voting. Is it important? How might they prepare for their first election? Talk about what happens when someone who doesn’t use their vote is disappointed and what they could do differently. Wherever you stand, we likely agree: We want our kids to be confident, kind, independent thinkers. Open the dialogue. Keep listening. Raise a responsible citizen. And vote.
* This includes us, the adults.
Also written by Kristina Betke of wishcraftworkshop.com.