Explaining the Election

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With time winding down until Election Day, you can’t go anywhere or even turn on the TV without hearing something about the divisive presidential race. That goes for your kids, too. As parents, we can seize these opportunities to explain the election process to our kids.

There are a few things to keep in mind:

Stick to the Issues
In an election where we’re talking about leaked emails and accusations of sexual assault, it’s easy to get sidetracked. But it’s important to teach kids that they can vote for a candidate based on the issues that are important to them. Start by talking less about who you’re voting for and more about why you’re voting for that candidate. Another way to get kids thinking along these lines is by asking questions like, “If you were the president, what would you do for the country?”

If you can’t say something nice…
It can be hard not to giggle when you hear a three-year-old proclaim, “Donald Trump is a liar!” or, “Hillary Clinton is a crook!” As any parent knows, toddlers and preschoolers are great at mimicking their parents, so anything you say about the election in the safety of your own home can be repeated in front of a much larger audience. Keep your own mom’s advice top of mind, and if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Curl Up with a Good Book
“Duck for President” is one of my favorite books that explains the election process, but there are several others for parents and kids to choose from. (Click here for a list.) Whether you prefer a non-fiction book or a storyline, you can find an option that will help your kiddos understand the election.

Rock the Vote
Hold a mock election in your house, complete with ballots and ballot box. You can vote for a family mascot, nickname for a pet or the next movie you’ll watch at a family movie night. It’s a good exercise to explain the process on election day, how votes are kept secret and how majority rules.

Take a Field Trip
Seeing is believing, so bring your kids with you to the polls. In Minnesota, you are allowed to bring your children with you to vote. Having conversations ahead of time will provide context and help the kids understand what is going on and why it is important.

These conversations and activities will help teach kids about our country’s history and democracy. By helping them understand, you’re helping them gain a sense of ownership in the election process and getting them excited about becoming future voters.

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Ghouls, Goblins and Ghosts: Is it Too Much for Kids?

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It’s no secret kids love to play dress-up, so it’s a natural fit for Halloween to be their favorite holiday. But, the fright-factor adults love about Halloween can be downright scary for kids.

Let’s start with decorations. If you’ve ever been down the Halloween aisle with your kids and the mummies raised their arms and the ghosts started shrieking, you know today’s decorations are meant to spook. But, there are plenty of Halloween standbys that most kids don’t find scary – spiders, painted pumpkins and black cats are a good place to start.

Then there are the costumes. Remember that young minds have a hard time separating make-believe from reality, so witches with green faces, zombies with blood and (especially this year) scary clowns might be too much for their imaginations to take. Pick costumes of favorite cartoon characters or furry animals. If your child freaks because they suddenly have big ears or a tail, Halloween-themed pants and shirts will do.

In my experience, some kids love trick-or-treating and some just don’t. It’s kind of like making a bet with 50/50 odds. I say take your chances, but set your expectations low. Kids change from year to year, so just because they spent the entire time last year hiding behind your legs while you asked for candy, it may not be that way this year. Put yourself in their shoes, the act of trick-or-treating is essentially asking your children to walk up to a stranger and ask for candy – a hard concept for kids to wrap their head around. Try trick-or-treating while it’s still light outside or make a quick night of it by only visiting the neighbors you are familiar with. Or you can skip the trick-or-treating and go to a Halloween event geared toward young kids.

If you prefer staying home on Halloween night, you’ll still have to decide if you want to pass out candy. If your kids are easily spooked, having all sorts of ghouls and goblins ringing your doorbell probably has about the same odds for success as actual trick-or-treating. In that case, make Halloween a fun family night. Make a pumpkin-shaped pizza (it’s easier than you think!), dim the lights and snuggle up with your kiddos to watch It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

Happy Halloween!