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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Author: minivancommuter

Alise McGregor is a working mom with two girls. As the founder of Little Newtons, she's passionate about making education the primary focus of child care.

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