REALITY CHECK: What have your kids learned these last two years about democracy and the electoral process?
It’s November 4th. Election Day! The moment that defines who we are as a democracy. It’s easy to overlook how significant voting is—especially when the election day coverage has been going on non-stop it seems for two years plus. But this is it folks.
November 4th is also a day to teach your children about citizenship, democracy and just how important is to vote. And we better teach them. The percentage of youth who vote has been dismal. This is the first in a long time that kids are even showing an interest in the democratic process. For shame! Kids learn attitudes and behaviors early in life and they learn them best from parents.
Here are few ways to turn Election Day into not only a learning process, but also a fun family tradition.
1. Take your child to the polls. If you haven’t voted, bring your kids to the polls. Show the booth and ballot. My girlfriend’s kids said their mom always did this stressing it was her obligation as an American citizen to vote. Her adult kids have never missed voting in an election since.
2. Tune up red, white and blue. Hang up an American flag. Younger kids can make a construction paper flag replica. Describe what those 13 stripes and 50 stars mean. Make cupcakes dazzled with a red or blue sprinkles or frosting.
3. Choose your candidate and make campaign posters. Little ones can cut out pictures of their candidate from newspapers. School age kids can make campaign posters for their candidate. Tweens and teens can analyze their candidate’s views online. Some families make a ballot box (a shoe box with a slit on the top) and have each member vote on a paper slip then add up them up.
4. Hold family political debates and learn to “Fight Fair.” The primaries were interesting in the Borba household because every of our five family members supported a different candidate. The fun part was listening to one another’s views and some of those state measures make for “fascinating” discussions. The trick is making heated discussions calm. Here are four Fighting FAIR rules to get your opinions across.
First, explain that anyone gets a tad-bit hot under the collar, immediately employ the “F”: FREEZE, breathe, and calm down. Emphasize, “We may disagree in our family, but you must use a calm voice.” Then “A”: ASSERT yourself by saying your position, but stay focused on the issue and the facts about your candidate. Use an “I MESSAGE” to cut out those deadly blaming “You should…” “You never…” “You always…” comments that can heat up a disagreement. Finally, “R”: RESPECTFULLY listen to each family member’s views. Once you’ve practiced those rules you can use them to resolve any family dispute.
5. Watch the election night coverage. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, watch the TV coverage. Explain how the commentators are reporting who is to be the next president. When I was growing up this was a big time family event.
6. Throw in political lessons. Hang up a map of the U.S. or print one off from online. Do a quick lesson on the two party system: Obama is the democrat and McCain in the republican. School age kids can color in “red” or “blue” on the map. An older kid to add up those electoral votes on a calculator and make the democratic process come to life.
7. Save the next day’s newspaper. Make sure you put the next morning’s headlines announcing the new President of the United States front and center in your household. Regardless of who won, let your child know this elected man is the leader of the free world for the next four years.
Whether or not your candidate comes out the winner, please convey to your children that there are many countries in the world who do not have the privilege of choosing a candidate. Don’t ever let your children take their democracy for granted.
Make sure you vote!