By Estelle Sobel Erasmus
This upcoming Wednesday, October 3, parents everywhere will be rushing their children to bed so that they can view the political debates in peace. But, that doesn’t mean that kids, even as young as pre-school age, don’t know that the United States is in the midst of some big event. Given that the coverage is ongoing, and the adults around them are likely to engage in heated debates themselves, its not hard to imagine that the political-and personal-landscape can be confusing or frightening to children.
So how can parents help their children understand the importance of politics and debate while reassuring them that they are safe?
Education expert Claire Hass, vice president of education, Kiddie Academy says, “the key to making sense of the election is by explaining politics in a way that a child can understand and digest. In fact, parents shouldn’t miss this great opportunity to teach their families about expressing and respecting differing opinions.”
She recommends the following tips and election-related activities to help parents talk politics with their kids.
Have a Party: Encourage your older child to create their own mock political party. They can decide on their platform, create a symbol and even debate siblings or friends on the merits of their party. Perhaps the winner gets to choose the next movie to see or meals for a week.
Take a Vote on it: Macaroni & cheese or tacos for dinner? They get to vote on it. Create a mock voting booth and ballots for each member of the family. When all the votes have been cast, tally the results and talk about the process and how it relates to choosing a president.
Dinnertime Debate: Give each member of the family 2 minutes over dinner to discuss why they prefer one candidate over the other. Be sure to include younger children – it may result in some unique perspectives. Children can practice important life skills, including active listening, respect for others and taking turns.
Explain Yourself: Particularly if you are passionate about the candidate you prefer, take the time to explain why. Defend your position, and what you like or don’t like about each candidate. Encourage your kids to ask questions or choose a candidate they prefer, even if it’s not the same as your own choice.
Write a Letter: Writing a letter to a politician (whether electronically or via pen and paper) is a great way to demonstrate the democratic process, and the importance of sharing opinions. Added bonus: in an election year, it’s likely your child will get a response.
Don’t Stress, Here’s the Address:
President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500 (Link to email form)
Romney for President, PO Box 149756, Boston, MA 02114-9756 (LInk to email form)
You can also find your local representatives by starting at www.(your state).gov.
For more tips and ideas for introducing your kids to politics, visit the Kiddie Academy Family Essentials blog.
Check out my most recent Teachable Moments Article, on 5 Ways to Teach Young Children About Music