Tuesday is Election Day. What a great opportunity to engage children in the precious responsibility we all share as citizens: selecting our government officials. Here are 9 tips to help (please note that some of these are ongoing and would follow this particular Election Day):
• Take your kid(s) with you to vote. Observing you taking part in the political process creates a deeper impression than lectures. Make the morning even more special by taking your kid(s) out to breakfast before hand and discussing what will happen.
• Pick a few issues that are in dispute among those you will be voting for. Objectively review the position of both sides, keeping your position a secret. Then, ask your child what s/he thinks. Try to avoid influencing your child, instead encourage him or her to think as deeply about the issue(s) as s/he may. You might follow up by investigating the issue(s) further online or otherwise.
• If there is a candidate you strongly support, call that person’s local campaign office and ask if you can help, and if your child can tag along. If ever there is such a thing as an educational field trip, this would be it.
• Invite your child to follow the election results with you, cheering for anyone that you are both rooting for.
• See if your child’s teacher, or one of your child’s teachers, might be interested in doing a class discussion on some of the political issues at hand. Again, the emphasis here would not be on proselytizing a perspective (which could get a teacher in deep trouble) but on helping kids learn how to think through an issue and the value of engaging the political process. Perhaps the class, or the school at large, might hold a mock election.
• Consider asking a given politician’s campaign office, at other times during the campaign cycle, if it would be helpful for you to go door-to-door or make calls on the candidates behalf, inviting your child to join you.
• Consider, together with your child, whether it would be a good idea to join one or more political associations. If your child is old enough perhaps s/he might obtain his or her own membership.
• Consider, together with your child, whether you might want to donate money to a political cause.
• Consider taking your child to a rally of a candidate you both support.
I won’t finish with platitudes that you already know regarding why voting is important, and what was sacrificed by so many others so that we might have this right. Instead, I’ll close with a self-disclosure. My wife, Lia, has done a great job with this with our kids. I’ve seen how deeply impactful this has been on all three of them, with my eldest writing about these experiences in her college application essays and joyfully actualizing her own right to vote at the very first possible moment; for Morgan, not exercising an opportunity to vote falls just short of a crime. Moreover, all three of my kids think and argue about a wide assortment of political issues, with great passion. So, I’ve seen, first hand, how effective these strategies can be for molding and igniting responsible and engaged citizens.