When kids learn about politics, they’re often fascinated. They want to know how the government works and what different people think about issues and laws.
It’s never too early to teach them that it’s a privilege to vote and that people fought for that right. It’s also important to help them find their own method for staying informed.
Politics and kids may seem like an odd couple: Children don’t have the vote yet, and learning about political parties, issues and elections smacks of (gulp) homework. But teaching kids about politics can help them become engaged citizens who are better equipped to make informed decisions as they grow up.
During election season, discuss the mudslinging that is part of most campaigns and talk about how political ads use music and visuals to appeal to people’s emotions. Also, take young kids to the polls to get them familiar with the voting process.
When talking to your kids about politics, don’t push your own views on them. Explain that every person has the right to their own beliefs and to vote for what they believe in. And encourage them to research the facts and think for themselves by showing them how to find unbiased news sources. This will help them develop their own beliefs instead of being socialized into believing that yours are the only true ones.
More and more families are having open conversations about the big issues that affect their lives, including politics. While we most often associate politics with large events like presidential elections, it really is how people in groups make decisions at many levels, from local to global.
By elementary age, kids understand concrete political details better, but abstract concepts – like how voters influence politicians – can still be elusive. As children gain independence, they may be interested in getting involved in activism or volunteering – as long as it’s positive and safe.
Watching news together (like CNN for Kids or the children’s newspaper, First News) is a good way to explore current events, as is discussing political ads. Explaining how they are crafted with a goal of appealing to a voter’s emotions, using visuals and music, can be a great learning opportunity. Children can also write to their local councillor or MP about issues that concern them, such as vandalism in play areas.
Kids are attracted to the idea that politics is about solving problems, and it’s good to introduce them to the different kinds of issues facing our society. It is also a good opportunity to teach them to think about how their decisions impact other people.
The ages at which you discuss these issues will vary according to your child’s interest and experience. Preschoolers may be interested in the fact that they have a voice and can vote, while older children may be more fascinated by how laws are made and how the government works, especially if they’re learning about it in school.
Laws that affect your child directly, such as the 5p carrier bag charge or the pothole on their route to school, can make politics seem more relevant and accessible. It can also be a great way to encourage discussion around fairness, and to model how to respectfully disagree with others. There are many reputable books and online resources for this kind of discussion.
Taking your children to the polls and teaching them about how politics works early on can teach them that they are part of a democracy, where it’s important for everyone to have their voice heard. It also teaches them that they can disagree with others without calling names or becoming angry.
Having kids listen to campaign promises and debates can be an opportunity to discuss how people try to address problems in their community or country. They can ask questions and learn about different government systems and how people have tried to change societal ills such as poverty, hunger and war.
This is also an excellent time to teach children that advocacy is more than just voting for a candidate; it can be working on an issue you feel passionate about. For example, your son or daughter may want to help stop animal cruelty and make sure that animals receive the care they need. They can become involved with charities that support those causes and make a difference in the world.