• With the political campaign season again upon us, involving children in the process can prove to be an enriching educational opportunity.  There are many positives as well as a few pitfalls to look out for when bringing your children into political discussions.

    Lead by Example

    …standing up and voicing your opinion by exercising your privilege to vote is what makes a difference.

    As a parent, your actions will have a lasting impact on your child’s growth. Show your own interest and get involved in the civic and political process through discussions and asking your children what issues are important to them.  You’d be surprised what they come up with and how their simplicity may ring true to what issues are really important. Take your children with you when you vote.  Allow them to go into the voting booth and let them help you punch the ballot.  Give them an “I Voted!” sticker and introduce them to the voting booth workers.  By making the political process fun from the beginning, your child will associate positive feelings with it and realize that your and their vote counts. They may even choose to get more personally involved by running for a political office in school or volunteering/interning with different political parties when they get older. This would give them an inside perspective of what happens behind the scenes.

    There are countless other ways you can set an example on the political front: Attend PTA or School Board meetings; join campaign rallies; participate in phone-a-thons; or hammer a campaign sign on your lawn.  Even if you do not bring your child with you to every event, you can tell them about it so they can understand how you get involved.  Anyone can sit on the sideline and complain that they are not happy with how things are currently going. However, standing up and voicing your opinion by exercising your privilege to vote is what makes a difference.  The way you choose to do things and become involved makes a huge impression on your children.  I still recall the times my father would return home from a long day of work and turn right around to go vote – every single time, even for the most basic municipal initiatives.

    Active Engagement

    Encourage critical and creative thinking. Find time to sit together as a family to discuss current events and engage your child as you would an adult.  Let them be included in political discussion when you have guests over as well.  By involving your child in “adult” conversations, they will learn to express themselves in front of other adults, outside their comfort zone.  This gives external validation that their thoughts are worthy or that there are other perspectives they can learn.

    Active engagement can happen every day, at breakfast or in the car, as well.  Place a newspaper or news magazine on the breakfast table every morning; it’s usually better than reading the cereal box (but not always).  Set aside a few minutes each day to listen to the news in the car together.  It is never too soon or too late for your child to learn to defend his/her thoughts, or to learn about another perspective – in other words, how to debate and think critically.


    We well know that not everything in politics is positive.  There are many cynics, and many reasons to be cynical.  Though it may be entertaining to watch the mudslinging at some of these debates, teach your children that this is wrong and how to differentiate between who is and who is not staying focused on the issues at hand. Discuss the influence of money, corruption, power, and sex — the challenges to idealism – with your child, keeping it age appropriate.  And point out that there are still many decent, committed public servants who live by a simple credo: Public office is a public trust.

    Finally, resist the urge to go too far.  You may have strong views on given topics or candidates.  While it is important for a parent to cultivate moral values, let your child reach his/her own conclusions on candidates and issues. I grew up in a household with a Republican father and a Democratic mother.  They shared their views, showing me both sides of the argument, and allowed me to take my own stance.  This might be more difficult in a one-party household, but it can be done.

    For kids, politics is a process – a journey, not a destination.  The journey can be enriching because, if done right, civic education will help your child develop public speaking, critical thinking, debating skills, and keep abreast with current events, which are tools they can use throughout their lives.