This November 6, if you’re an American citizen over the age of 18 you should be heading to the polls to cast your vote for incumbent president and Democrat, Barack Obama or his challenger, Republican Mitt Romney—but where will your kids be? My two boys will be right by my side.
Whenever my husband and I go to vote, we bring our children along with us. We believe that just as it’s important to model healthy eating and exercising, being a good neighbor and other positive behaviors, it’s important that our kids see us vote.
In technical terms this is part of their “political socialization”—but more than that, it shows our kids that the current events and topics we discuss at the dinner table each evening are not abstract concepts that don’t affect them directly. The kids learn that we each have a voice and that they must be proactive about changing things they’re unhappy about or keeping in place things they are content with—not just in politics, but in life.
Read Related: Teach Your Kid About the Presidential Election
If you want to get your kids involved in the political process but aren’t sure how, here are just a few ideas.
- Take your kids with you to vote. The first time I wasn’t sure if my children could actually come with me into the booth or behind the electronic voting machine, but they are allowed. This is a great opportunity for your child to see how it works so that the first time they go to vote they aren’t confused or intimidated.
- Let your child participate in fund raising or other activities that support the candidate they would vote for if they could. My eldest son is 14 years old and has mandatory community service hours to complete for school. To satisfy that requirement, he’s planning to volunteer at a local campaign office. Younger children can help make cookies and run a bake sale with the proceeds going to their chosen campaign.
- Watch the debates together and discuss the topics afterward. If they’re old enough to understand satire, share some funny videos, too and discuss the fact that news sources aren’t necessarily unbiased. Be open-minded and listen to what your kids have to say! Chances are they will support whomever they know you support, but when they have a different political point of view, don’t be so quick to try to prove them wrong. They might surprise you with some very profound thoughts!