When it comes to talking to your kids about political matters, you will be wrong if you think your children are only interested in talking about kids' stuff. Many surveys showed a majority of kids and teens state that they think that the outcome of the election would change their lives, and that they believed they'd had at least some influence on their parents' choice of candidate.
As presidential election time approaches again, we’re seeing signs, bumper stickers, or ads for political candidates everywhere. Turn on the TV or radio or surf the Web and you're sure to face an onslaught of messages on everything from health care, the economy, jobs, and housing, to war abroad and the energy crisis.
As parents, we can't expect our kids not to be influenced by this media blitz. Knowing what kids think about these issues and how they might affect your family is important. Talking about it not only helps to promote learning and develop critical thinking skills, but also lets you clarify any misconceptions your kids may have or calm any fears about the future.
More tips to keep in mind:
- Talk about it. Talk about what you believe and why — and ask your kids what they think and feel. This shows that you value their opinions and want to hear what's on their minds. If their opinions differ from yours, that's OK. Use it as a teaching opportunity: Why do they feel that way? Can they come up with examples to support their view? Engaging kids in this way helps them to develop their own opinions and express their ideas.
- Keep it positive. Use the opportunity to show kids how to voice differences of opinion with respect, strength, and conviction. Focus on the positive attributes of your candidate. Encourage your kids to do the same.
- Be reassuring. Perhaps kids are worried by what the candidates and others are saying about the economy or the job market. Listen to their concerns and provide reassurance.
- Suggest they get involved. Taking action helps kids feel empowered and effective, and builds problem-solving skills. Help kids think of what they can do. Talk about how small things can add up to make a big difference. Perhaps to save money, they'll want to make lunches instead of buying them at school. Or, if the environment is of particular concern, maybe they'd like to find ways to help the family "go green" at home. Let your kids know that just like voting for a candidate can make a difference, so can working toward an issue that you'd like to change.
- If possible, take your kids with you into the voting booth on Election Day to show them firsthand how the process works. Be a role model by setting a positive example that lets them know you value the right to vote. Show your kids the importance of voting — and they'll grow up knowing that every vote counts.
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