True statement: This is still the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. This is still the America we love so dearly and the country that will provide hopes and dreams for generations to come. We owe it to our children to teach them foundational skills that make them feel safe, empowered, and hopeful for a more positive tomorrow.
I do not pretend to have politics and parenting all figured out. However, I do think I have a few ideas on how we can use this election season as a platform to talk to our kids about politics. When we finish our brief time together in this, I hope you will share with me your ideas, too. I encourage you to read these five tips with an open mind and visions of a better, brighter tomorrow dancing in your head.
1. Politics are important every day, not just today. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the media frenzy that occurs during election season. If we are not careful, our children could easily conclude that the only time politics are important is every four years. Begin the conversation with your kids about the role our elected leaders play on a daily basis, and the various types of leaders we have in our communities. Explain to them how our President is surrounded by other leaders every day that helps him or her make important decisions every single day. Talk about all the different elected officials in your community and the different types of leaders that are a part of their everyday lives (the school principal, PTA president, church leaders, etc). Politics are everywhere!
2. Change begins with one person. Many people argue that “one vote doesn’t matter.” Regardless of where you stand in that debate, I think we can all agree that change begins with one person who dared to dream, dared to “do it scared,” and dared to go against the grain. Talk to your kids about issues that are important to your family. Then, begin to brainstorm how your family can begin to initiate change. These do not have to be political issues to drive the point home either! Do your kids think that too many people are grumpy at the grocery store? Brainstorm ways they can participate in a random act of kindness, and then put that idea into action. Your kids will quickly find out that one simple action can completely change the course of someone’s day. As they get older, this will be the foundation of their understanding that they have the power to initiate change on a much broader scale.
3. Words matter. There are SO many teaching opportunities in this election to this point. Are you frustrated with campaign rhetoric? His words matter. Did someone say something on Facebook that was especially hateful or derogatory? Her words matter. Whether you choose to use political examples or playground talk, it is vital that we teach our children the power of words if we hope for a better tomorrow.
4. Think for yourself. So many people simply do not want to think. They look to their friends, their family, or Google to tell them what they should believe. It is imperative that we begin to teach our children how to think for themselves! Just as your political party affiliation does not have to determine whom you vote for, the world does not have to tell you how to think. By encouraging our children to come up with their own beliefs rather than adopting the beliefs of their friends and family, we create independent and confident thinkers. These are the kids who become world changers.
The son of a dear friend of mine asked her who he should vote for in his school’s mock election. Rather than giving him a quick answer, she pulled up a short presidential candidate quiz and paraphrased the questions in an age-appropriate way. The questions that were a little too mature for a seven-year-old led to an “undecided” answer. After taking him through the series of questions and encouraging him to decide what was right and wrong, he had developed his own answer! I think we could all learn something from this momma’s approach to a very hard question!
5. Lead by example. Our children watch our every move and hear our every word. If we are participating in healthy dialogue, exercising our right to vote, and getting involved in our community, our children will remember! Don’t wait until the kids are in school to go vote; take them with you. Participate in the PTA, church committees, and local politics . . . and let your kids participate as well! You are their most powerful and influential teacher. Shepherd that gift wisely and intentionally.
I realize many of these suggestions are vague and broad, but that is incredibly intentional. Every family operates with a different skill set, knowledge base, and political foundation. Every family will approach this season from a slightly different perspective. That is what makes America so beautiful! If you really want to “make America great again,” focus on your kids. That’s where it’s all at.