Election year presents the perfect opportunity to teach children about political affairs and influence the next generation of voters. Even though the presidential election is front and center right now, it is also an opportunity to help children understand that government also works on the local level. Start a grassroots effort in your home to foster political awareness in your children. Here are 10 tips to help:

Be Age Appropriate

Introduce concepts that can be built upon over time. Discuss what responsibility is and what they may be learning in history class. Talk about leaders and authority figures in your home and community. Show your child pictures of those in the political spotlight and discuss what form of leadership they hold or are campaigning for. If you see political ads on TV, discuss them. Vote on what you’re going to serve for dinner.

Start Local

Talk about how government affects your child’s life right now through everyday things – regulations on items they use or money needed for places they frequent such as parks and libraries.

Work for Change

Show your child he has the ability to affect change. Help identify a neighborhood problem, such as a littered park, and talk about what he can do to bring improvement. Encourage him to write a letter to a local, state or national politician about the issue of concern. Children often receive a letter in return, particularly from local and state officials, and this will encourage them to continue their efforts.

Read About Politics

Use books such as biographies and historical and fiction works as a springboard for discussions and to hone their understanding of governmental affairs. Kid-friendly political and civic-oriented websites, such as Scholastic Kid Press (KPCnotebook.scholastic.com), have information and activities to teach children about government and current affairs.

Watch the Presidential Debates

Watch the news and political debates, and then turn the television off to have your own conversations before listening to commentaries. Read the newspaper aloud then discuss it together. Explain political cartoons and encourage your child to create his own cartoons based on issues important to him.

Go Volunteer

Participate as a family in community volunteer opportunities throughout the year and during campaign time. This may be a tough year to do active volunteering. You can put signs up in your yard, or even better, have the kids make political signs.

Raise a Young Leader

Encourage your child to run for school or class office. This will give him a jump start on leadership roles and is a tangible way to teach him about the campaigning process. Suggest school and extracurricular groups hold mini debates to introduce political concepts.

See Government in Action

Take trips to state and national historical and governmental sites. If possible, make prior arrangements to meet with representatives. Have your child make a list of questions to ask officials before leaving home. Of course, you can always head to D.C. to see national landmarks, but check out the Georgia Capitol, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park and the Atlanta History Center for fun and educational trips that are closer to home.

Be a Role Model

Let your child see you reading the newspaper, watching the news, being active in civic volunteering and voting. Take him with you to vote and familiarize him with voting processes. This year, he may end up watching you fill out your absentee ballot and mailing it or dropping it off. Let him know the processes as you do them.

Wear Political Garb

Whether you’re supporting a party, a candidate or just the voting process, show your support for democracy with political attire. Get unique designs on T-shirts, buttons, masks, kids’ shirts and more on Etsy, Redbubble, TeePublic or CafePress.

– Denise Morrison Yearian

Tips on Talking to Your Kids About Election Season

Prepare them for the stories that will come out of the news, as candidates are going to say and do things to get attention and grab headlines.

When they ask you about the latest political crisis, take the opportunity to share your take, or say, “I don’t have the answer for that right now, but let’s go online and explore this together later.”

Kids are going to hear opinions from teachers, broadcast news and friends. If your kids are on social media orYouTube, they may be exposed to memes, influencers’ rants, extremist videos, trolls, digital advertising and more.

Discuss how a political ad is like a regular commercial for a product, who paid for the ad, and if political ads actually influence the outcome of an election.

Candidates are trained to stay “on message.” They stick to their talking points, avoid direct questions and hedge when they don’t want to be pinned down. Point this out to your kids.

You may have to explain to your kids certain terms and situations you never thought you’d have to at this age. Explain how candidates may bring up some things as a distraction or to get attention. Ask your kids to identify two specific positions for each candidate to keep them focused on the real issues.

Draw a link between your kids’ experience of student body elections at school and those on the state and national levels.

– Adapted from Common Sense Media

Find more ways to navigate the world of politics with Atlanta Parent’s list of Kid-Friendly Books on Politics.

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