Turn this election season into an opportunity to teach your teen about how the government works (or doesn’t work as the case may be). According to the Knight Foundation, “Voter turnout in the 2014 midterm elections (36.3 percent) was the lowest it’s been since World War II. Turnout for local elections is even lower, with research showing only 1 in 5 eligible voters show up for mayoral elections.” The best way to make our voices heard and improve these statistics is making politics for kids engaging at a young age.
Michael Godsey, an English teacher at Morro Bay High School in California, has been incorporating podcasts like Serial, the wildly popular This American Life spinoff, into his curriculum. He points out, “Even if they weren’t into it, I told them it was the most popular podcast of all time, and that was interesting.” ListenCurrent curates relevant public radio shows on a variety of topics. You can join for free and though it’s designed for schools, it’s a great place to find the best relevant podcasts on how the government works.
Read Related: How to Talk to Your Kids About Current Events
Though Donald Trump ups the inappropriate comment ante on a daily basis, he’s definitely an attention grabber. Or take the Ayatollah of Iran’s threatening tweets to President Obama (it really is a whole new world) — a potential Twitter war is probably much easier for teens to understand than a complicated nuclear agreement. In fact, two boys in the U.K. recently developed a Tinder-inspired app that allows users to access the Twitter feeds of candidates in their district. Now that’s engagement! Teenagers live on social media so why not start a conversation by meeting them on their own turf?
Hillary Clinton is a strong Democratic contender but there are still far too few women political leaders in the U.S. The good news is that there are quite a few fabulous programs geared towards encouraging girls to get involved in politics and inspiring them to become future leaders. Running Start offers summer programs for high school girls. Global Girl Media gives teens around the world the tools and support to become digital and blog journalists in their own communities. Girls in Politics teaches girls how the government works from policy to the inner workings of Congress and the United Nations. They have camps as well as virtual classes.
Just remember, teens are turned off by politics for the same reasons adults are — they feel disconnected from the process and they don’t realize what an impact informed voters can have. While you watch the presidential race unfold, don’t forget to learn about what’s happening in your community and which candidates or issues appeal to you and your teen. You might find yourself getting more involved in the political process and how the government works too!