As we head into a presidential election year here in the US, many of our children will be voting for the first time. Others will come of age before the next presidential election and will be able to vote in important local, state, and federal election opportunities between now and then. So, how can we prepare our children to be educated, solid, and informed voters?
It can be tempting to block the frustration of current politics out during family discussion. But, what better way to train our children than to discuss current events around the dinner table or during family time? Obviously, it’s important to keep discussions relevant based on the ages of our children, but even elementary-aged children can participate in political discussions.
Here are a few ways to start a family discussion:
For a conversation that can involve a wide age range, collect political ads that come through the mail or intentionally watch some on television. Talk through how to process biased presentation and describe the different kinds of campaigns. Is it a smear campaign, attempting to tarnish an opponent’s reputation? Or is it a campaign that attempts to make a particular candidate look flawless? What can we learn about the bias of an ad based on its sponsor? Define and discuss propaganda, and consider how that applies.
The Faith Factor
Discuss how faith pertains to the various issues at hand and how to evaluate a voting choice in light of glorifying God in all we do. With younger children, keep the topics based on black and white scenarios which are very easily resolved by recalling stories or passages from Scripture. As your children approach the reasoning stage of learning, begin to incorporate more gray issues and encourage them to think and talk through their responses before you share your own opinion.
Don’t forget local issues! Get to know information about the elected officials in your city and county, as well as in your own state, and discuss their current roles, actions, and policies while in office.
If your children are all young – especially if they are early elementary or younger – it might be difficult to engage in true political discussion. But, during the learning stages in which your children are getting excited about learning or just beginning to understand, there are others ways you can begin to train your children to become responsible voters.
Even if you’re not ready for family discussions, be intentional about how you discuss politics with fellow adults when your children are around. Even if they are playing and not directly paying attention, keep your discussions basic, informative, and understandable. Young ears learn a great deal by simply being around discussions!
Take your children with you when you register to vote or are ready to head to the polls. Let them see the process of checking in and casting a ballot.
As they are beginning to reason, give a brief explanation about why you chose the candidate or option you chose. This can be done while you are casting a ballot or immediately before or after you go to vote. It does not have to be time-consuming. Just a few seconds to stop and explain each decision is great. If possible, even let your child make the ballot selections with your guidance.