How to Talk to Your Kids About Voting
2020 is an election year, and that means many parents are starting to have the talk with their kids. No not that talk -- the talk about voting. Politics can be a divisive topic of conversation regardless of who you plan to vote for and this year’s election is particularly contentious. Even if you aren’t keeping up with election news or talking about politics at home, chances are your kids are hearing about it.
You may be asking yourself whether it’s the right time to talk to your kids about voting? Are they too young to understand politics? The truth is, there’s no one size fits all answer. As a former childcare professional, I think that your child is probably ready to talk about the election process when they start asking questions about it.
If you are struggling to have this talk, you’re not alone. Here are five tips to help you have a meaningful conversation with your kids about the election.
Meet them where they’re at
If your child has expressed interest in the election, make sure to discuss the process at a level they understand - you wouldn’t talk about voting to a 3-year-old in the same way you would talk to a 13-year-old about it.
If your child is young, give them concrete but easy to digest information about what it means to vote, who you are voting for, and why. Model the voting process by taking them with you to the polls or have them sit with you when you fill out your absentee ballot if you are voting by mail. Explain each step of what you are doing and why.
Listen to them & ask them to listen
When having a conversation about politics, it’s easy to push forward with our own viewpoints without listening to other point-of-views. But an important part of having a meaningful dialogue is listening. Listen to the questions your child is asking and address those topics first. Ask them to explain what they understand about elections and voting and then help to fill in the gaps. Remind them to respect the views of others by asking them to listen to your thoughts before jumping in.
Remind them that it’s okay to disagree
Let your child know that it’s okay to feel differently than you or their friends when it comes to the election. Disagreements can be daunting for children but the key is to remind them that everyone is entitled to their opinion and that friends don’t have to feel the same way about everything all of the time. Kindness is everything.
Teach them about digital literacy
If your children are old enough to use social media or to do online research, teach them to spot reliable sources versus misinformation. Non-partisan resource Common Sense Media has a guide on how to spot fake news and teach your kids to be media savvy.
Tell them why voting is important to you
It may be easy to have a conversation about elections using facts and process, but don’t forget to share your views on what makes voting important and why they should care about this important civic duty.
If you are still struggling with the best approach to start this conversation, here is a list of age-appropriate books about voting (from younger to older):
V is for Voting by Kate Farrell
One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote by Bonnie Worth
Bad Kitty for President by Nick Bruel
I Voted: Making a Choice Makes a Difference by Mark Shulman
When You Grow Up to Vote: How Our Government Works for You by Eleanor Roosevelt
Kristin is now a Creative Operation Manager in NYC, and has spent many years in the childcare field as a nanny. She has a degree from UCF in English Literature & Political Science as well as her Florida Teaching Certificate.