6 Ways to Get Your Child Involved in the Voting Process
by: Jessica Thiefels
Use the following tips to help promote the significance of voting to your children. Starting the conversation at a young age will make them more likely to vote as adults.
One of the best ways to encourage children to vote is to bring your child to the voting booth with you. Bringing children to vote can seem like a logistical nightmare, but parents are allowed to bring two children under eighteen. Use this opportunity to show your children how the “voting machine” works.
Many parents even let their children “vote” for them by showing which candidates to vote for and letting their child push the button. This is a great way to make voting fun for your kid and introduce the process at an early age.
Most children are introduced to the idea of voting by the campaigns they see on TV and social media. Naturally, young children will have questions about what voting is and why we do it, but these questions may come in the car, on the way to school, or any other time when you’re not prepared to answer them.
Read through this list of answers to common questions children ask about voting, so you’re ready when the questions come out of left field. Once answered, be sure to engage in the conversation and prompt them to talk more about what your child thinks. Teens and preteens especially are interested in the issues that arise during elections, so be sure to ask your teen about her views. Remember to respect her opinion (even if you don’t agree!), and be willing to have an open discussion.
Kids can have a hard time understanding why politics affect them personally. Commenting on campaign signs is a great way to start this discussion with younger children. Comparing the national election to student government elections is a great way to make it personal for middle and high schools students.
High school kids are close to the voting age, so focus on how to register to vote and the procedure for the entire process. If your child is of voting age, encourage him to create a list of pros and cons for each candidate. Have him include the differences in each candidate’s platform and strategy to encourage him to get the whole story before voting, rather than voting on popularity.
The same issues that interest you may not interest your children. According to a recent survey, young people aged 18-24 are more concerned about climate change than any other political issue. Your kids will be more interested in learning about the election when you’re talking about issues they’re interested in, rather than simply telling them what you think is best.
Kids may not understand many hot button issues, but they can see your emotional response to them. Younger children may even feel that they’re the cause of this reaction. If you do get upset in front of your children about politics, explain why you’ve reacted the way you have, and reiterate that it is not their fault. Keep the discussion positive, and don’t force your opinions on them.
You want your children to think for themselves, problem-solve, and make smart decisions, so make sure you’re promoting that mindset, even in regards to politics.
While a recent survey shows only 5.5 percent of adults polled said that gaming was their favorite indoor activity, a whopping 91 percent of kids play video games. Use this as a way to start the conversation about politics with your children.
For example, The Democracy Project is a game where kids can simulate a voting experience and learn about the issues surrounding the election. Kids will love playing the game, and you can join in to stimulate the conversation and start a discussion.