With one presidential debate behind us and the first vice presidential debate scheduled for this Thursday, October 11, it’s the perfect time to educate curious kids about politics but how do you do so in a bipartisan and age appropriate way?
To help answer this question, I turned to Joanne Bamberger, friend, fellow blogger, mom, author, and new media expert who specializes in the political involvement in women and mothers on PunditMom. Since her best selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women & Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America, features a chapter titled Raising Political Children, she was the perfect person to ask for tips on making politics a family affair.
Here are 6 election- related activities that Joanne says can teach kids about the political process and are designed to be done as a family. Of course you don’t have to do all of them. Pick and choose based on what works well for you and the ages of your children.
1. Have a family debate party. It’s prime presidential debate season, so why not watch some of the debates as a family? Joanne says, “For younger children, this can be a good way to introduce them to the idea of electing a president and what each candidate stands for. For older kids, ask them to do a little research on the candidates’ web sites before the debates and then afterwards, have a conversation about whether the candidates were consistent with what they’re said before.”
2. Talk with an elected official. “To learn about the election and the voting process, kids don’t have to be tuned into the presidential race,” she admits. Joanne asks, “Do you have a neighbor, friend or family member who is on your local school board or town council? If so, find a time when you can have your children talk with that person about why they decided to run for office and what difference they hoped to make in the community by doing that.”
3. Attend a political event as a family. “The idea of politics and people running for office can be a little abstract, even to older children,” Joanne states. “You don’t need to be a big political donor to take advantage of various “meet the candidate” events in your area.” She recommends looking for events being held by local and state politicians near your home that could give children a flavor of what it takes to run for office and the kinds of questions candidates are asked by voters.
4. Have a mock election at your school. Using her own parenting experience with her daughter, Joanne believes that even young elementary school children are usually aware that a presidential election is taking place. “It’s hard to avoid it these days with 24/7 cable news coverage and neighborhood yard signs,” she says. “Talk with your child’s teacher about the possibility of taking a day or two in social studies class to talk about how we elect leaders and why it’s important to participate in the process. Then, have a mock election in the classroom and when the results are announced, have the kids talk about why they made their decisions.”
5. Play an online game. Stemming from her desire to engage today’s generation of children in civic life, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor created a website called iCivics. It’s one of Joanne’s favorites but for others she recommends, read my Tech Savvy Parents post on Parents.com called Election 2012: 5 Sites to Teach Kids About Politics.
6. What issues or causes are important to your family? “Many families choose causes or issues that are important to them, and volunteer their time or give donations to those causes,” she says. “Where do the presidential candidates, or others your family is considering voting for, stand on those issues?” Joanne urges families to think about an election or a candidate by using this as a jumping off point since having a connection and interest can help kids feel more connected to the issues if they see how it directly impacts something of importance to them.
Many thanks to Joanne Bamberger for her fabulous tips on parenting political kids. Joanne is the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women & Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America and can be found at PunditMom.com and on Twitter as @PunditMom. No compensation was received for this post. Amazon affiliate links included in this post.