Some parents are raising mini-me's as it relates to their political views and others are completely hands-off, but the point is this: when your child becomes old enough to vote, their impressions of the political process and actually voting itself was made way back during their formative years.
Just do it
According to Dr. Libby Haight O'Connell, chief historian, senior vice president, corporate outreach A&E Television Networks, it's important to teach by example. What's a better way to get your child involved than literally taking them into the voting booth with you? Dare we say even pull the lever?
While they may not understand who the candidates are or what they represent, they model our behavior; this is the ideal time to demonstrate your citizenship. "I raised my kids that way," says Dr. O'Connell. "They actually saw me vote by getting into the voting booth with me." Plus, when parents use this as a learning tool it encourages more parents to get to the polls and vote by exercising that right and privilege.
Depending on the age of your child, you can alter the lessons on politics 101. For instance, if you alter it into something they understand, they will get it. Kids understand the concept of voting so keep it basic like having them vote for their favorite cereal to eat in the morning or where you should take your family vacation.
Your Views = Your kid's views?
As to whether or not you want your political beliefs to rub off on your offspring, that's a matter of choice. "Part of parenting is sharing your values and I think it's okay to say I believe in this candidate and this is why," Dr. O'Connell says. This will also help parents get more involved because if you can't explain why you like a candidate, it may provide some internal prompting for you to identify why you endorse them and what values they embody.
For older kids who may be learning about candidates and the political parties at school, she says it's important to be a team player. Don't necessarily denigrate another candidate or badmouth them. "You have your point of view and your values and you have to have respect for other people." For instance, your child's friend and her family may be in favor of the opponent so be careful to not denigrate the other candidate. In other words, think good sportsmanship and you'll be fine.
Kitchen table + car = valuable time
"Every election is a wonderful time to teach kids how the Constitution works and that there are two senators for every state. What is a vice-president and what are the primary jobs of a president?" Dr. O'Connell recommends bringing up these questions with answers, of course, at the dinner table or even in the car. After all, while you're driving is a prime time to captivate their attention. Think about it: the tv isn't on and the phone's not ringing. Using that time to talk instead of listening to music that isn't necessarily limited to the elections.
Part of the parental process is having the ability to take situations like the election or the news in general to get them engaged and active in the process. She notes, "Keep talking to them about current events as well. You may not agree with your child but they'll be engaged on what's going on in our world and that's half the battle."
Check out these two cool sites to get your child involved online: