Start the Conversation: Voting
by Melanie Gasmen-Fleck
In issue 12, we introduce kids to voting and why it’s important. The upcoming presidential election is a great opportunity for kids to learn even more about the power of voting! For pointers, we invited Kevin S. Ruegg, PhD., CEO and Executive Director of Kids Voting USA for this special guest post. Kids Voting USA is an awesome nonprofit that gets kids excited about voting through fun, educational activities. Read on for excellent tips!
The 2020 presidential election is just around the corner. Now’s the perfect time to talk to our children about the right to vote. Talking with them and getting them involved is needed if we want a strong democracy in the future. Our children must know the power of the vote and that it’s not only our right but our responsibility. How do we start the conversation? How can we get them involved? As with all parenting, it’s by taking the opportunities at hand!
If your child asks “who are you voting for?”: Talk about the issues important to you and why you believe your candidate will help with those issues.
If your child says they are bored with all this election stuff: Explain the power of voting and why it’s important to understand the issues.
If a political ad plays on television: Talk about the purpose of slogans and campaign messages. Ask what they think the ad is trying to “sell.” Ask if the message is positive or negative, if it’s presenting facts or opinions, and if the message persuaded them.
If they ask a question you don’t have the answer to: Find the answer with them. Show them how to look for valid information and to check sources.
If they talk about arguments regarding politics: Remind them that all citizens have the right to free speech. Let them know each person has a right to their own ideas and when we respect another person’s view, we’re protecting our own right to free speech.
If they express a different opinion than you: Listen, ask questions respectfully, and encourage learning more about the issue or candidate your child’s supporting and who or what they’re against.
Getting them involved in these pandemic days may seem challenging, but there are still many opportunities for your children to take part in the election season. Below are a few links where you can find fun and educational activities for all ages:
Each state usually has activities on their government sites. Check out your governor’s secretary of state’s office, or your county recorder’s websites. Even if they don’t have games, they will have information that will help open discussions and allow for a “search and find” activity about voting in your state. Just give your child a list of questions and have them search the websites for answers.
Another way to engage your child includes bringing them with you when you vote. You can also watch the debates together and share your opinions. Or have the family vote on different decisions where appropriate. Perhaps vote on a movie to watch, dessert for the night, or a game to play. Every time a child sees that their vote matters, they will recognize the importance of their voice.
It would be easy to read this article and relate it to building family closeness and being a good role model. Yet in today’s times, it’s more than that. As citizens today, both parents and children face a brave challenge: standing together for our pledge of allegiance, our constitution, and the freedoms offered to each of us.
Remember, children first learn that their voice matters and the importance of voting through their family. And within their family, kids start to also understand that even when our vote doesn't win the majority, we are still one. We’re still “we the people.” An election should not divide our nation but rather strengthen us as the united states we are. We are one nation—we are one. Our vote matters because it solidifies that freedom and our country’s future. Teaching our children the reason we vote may be the most important lesson for our democracy that they ever learn.
This is part of an ongoing series on our blog called "Start the Conversation." We hope to continually provide resources that help prepare you to talk to the kids in your life about tricky topics. Click here to read other articles in this series.