Monday, May 2, 2011
Getting Children Involved in Politics
2012 is a Presidential election year, and things are already gearing up politically. How much do you involve your children in politics? What do they know about voting, the election process and the candidates? How do you want them to view their right to vote when they become an adult? Right now, your child is developing a set of beliefs about government, the political process and the part she plays. These beliefs will play a huge role when she enters the voting booth for the first time.
In Our Future Politicians, Vicki Salemi discussed how important our parental example is in shaping our child’s views. Children do what they see us doing. If we vote, they will most likely vote. If we are involved, they will most likely be involved politically. Dr. Libby Haight O’Connell – chief historian, senior vice president, corporate outreach A&E Television Networks – believes that it is vital to teach by example. She suggests taking your child into the voting booth with you! Give him the hands-on experience of pulling the lever!
During the last few election cycles and particularly since the shooting of Gabby Giffords, there has been much discussion about political rhetoric – particularly hostile, aggressive language. What better time than now to teach your child how to discuss issues and respect differences? Jen Klein addressed this during the last Presidential election in her article Respect Starts Young. Klein said, “When talking with kids about politics, or talking to kids about how to talk politics, think about how you would want to be treated if you were on the other side of the discussion. It's the Golden Rule all over again. While we may not agree with many of [our son’s] friends and his friend's parents, I don't want them to say nasty, belittling things about my choices, so I don't say it about theirs. The same goes for families that have disagreements in politics. Or even, as I have witnessed on several occasions, spouses.”
Klein believes that voting is both a responsibility and a privilege. “My husband and I were both brought up with the notion that voting and taking part in an election is not just a privilege, but a civic responsibility. We would never dream of missing a chance to vote. We were taught to inform ourselves about each election and be prepared to participate. As such, my husband and I are both fairly political people, there is talk in our home about the election and the candidates.”
At the age of eleven, my daughter influenced me to vote for “her” candidate for President of the United States. I was quite the fan of another, yet she insisted on seeing “her” candidate speak live in our area, and I took her. We shared a great experience, and she changed my mind! She also walked neighborhoods campaigning for “our” candidate and she recruited one of her friends as well. Talk about fulfilling the needs to feel powerful, to belong, to feel special, to feel valuable and to experiment and explore!
I encourage parents to involve their children in the political process. Take your child to visit your Senators and Congressional Representatives. There are a multitude of issues that will impact your child’s life, from legislation on educational funding to our national debt. Talk about them with your children. Walk as a family to speak with neighbors about getting out the vote. Take your child to hear candidates speak, and then ask his opinion, who he supports and why. Take your child to your state capital or Washington, D.C., to lobby for issues that are important to your family.