After school, I noticed the sticker on my daughter’s sweatshirt and said, “You voted today?”
She explained that other than the presidential candidates, she wasn't familiar with anything else on the ballot in the 7th grade mock presidential election, so she simply voted along party lines and guessed on the issues. Then she asked me if the president will be chosen by “. . . who has the most votes. . .”?
Although I was pleased that her humanities teacher used the upcoming election as an opportunity for students to experience the process of voting, I thought there were missed opportunities. I wonder how many Americans know the answer to my daughter's question about the electoral process? One of our country's biggest problems is an uninformed and/or misinformed electorate. If we merely show up to the polls and vote based on the information we obtain through campaign ads, we are doing ourselves a disservice. If we show up and vote party loyal, this is also a disservice. We should not pass this behavior to our children and with information right at our fingertips, we can do better.
My daughter and I spent about an hour talking about the Electoral College, the campaign ads we were being inundated with on the popular radio station she had streaming on her iPod, and how to find out about the rest of the candidates and issues on the ballot. We didn't get to everything, but she has a better understanding of how things will happen on Tuesday. (Now, if I could just convince her to join me at Nationwide Arena to see President Obama with Bruce Springsteen on Monday
. She’s more interested in accompanying me to our polling place on Tuesday which will be less crowded. Smart kid.)
Here are two great sites that will help with talking to your kids about the election:
A special section at PBS Parents
provides the basics and can be used for younger through school aged children. If gives easy to understand answers to questions
your children may be asking (Are political parties like birthday parties?) and includes activities like printing your own campaign poster. This site is appealing to younger children and the information is great for school age children who are just starting to learn about the election.
Like the PBS Parents site, Election 2012
from Scholastic has easy to understand explanations and activities. It also has an interactive map of the Electoral College
and On the Road to the White House
which tests your knowledge of the political system is one of many great games. You'll find many articles including information on the Swing States
, meeting the candidates
, and understanding election vocabulary
. What I enjoy about the Scholastic
site is that there are articles written by kids--The Scholastic Kids Press Corps. There is even an interview with the president
conducted by student reporters. This site will keep the attention of school age children and with just a little coaxing to get past the "kid" look of the site, will keep the interest of and be challenging for your young teen.
If after you've spent time doing all the fun activities on the above sites your older child or teen is still interested in the election, look over sites that are specific to party interests helping him/her identify statements and images that are used to sway voters' opinions. Then, look up the facts! In fact, this may be the way to start a discussion with your teen. It uses media they have already been exposed to on television and online.
How do you talk to your kids about the election?
Kimberly S. at Sperk*
photo credit: willc2 via photopin cc