Do you ever look back at your past and wonder what you were thinking when you made certain decisions? I do this in so many areas of my life, that I have to stop, or I’ll waste too much time in the past. However, there is a mistake I’d like to address. When I was finally 18, I could have cared less about voting. My friends would talk to me about it, my family would talk to me about it, heck, my sister worked for a senator, but I still didn’t see the importance in it. I didn’t trust politicians. I didn’t like what politics did to people, and I was pretty sure my vote didn’t matter in a sea of all of these Americans. I’m definitely not the same frustrated teenager, and I want to make sure my kids don’t make those same mistakes.
Voting any time you can do so in an informed way is intensely important, and I think we need to impress this upon our young people. We are very lucky that we live in a country where our opinion can be heard, but the importance can slip by our children if we don’t talk to them about it. Democracy only works if we participate, and it has rarely been more important to vote than right now. Dealing with politics responsibly is hard, and it’s only because of my children that I have started to look at it as my responsibility to help them understand the issues that I see. My husband and I usually agree, but lately, we feel differently about many issues. I try to explain to my oldest why I feel a certain way about a topic, but then I let my husband explain why he feels the other way. It has been nice to have my kids as a moral center so that we can stick with the facts that lead us one way or another.
Agree to Disagree Respectfully
Our kids are so smart. They see us discussing politics, they can’t go four seconds without seeing a political ad, and we can’t walk two blocks without running into a political sign. My kids are lucky. We live in a neighborhood of diverse views and opinions. They get to see us debating the topics that really matter to us, but we do so respectfully, because we’ll still be neighbors and friends when any election is over. It’s hard to feel so strongly about a topic and keep yourself in check, but it’s important to hear where others are coming from. In my experience, we want similar things for our country. It’s the way we believe we will arrive at those outcomes that makes us different. Try to take a deep breath and listen. That’s what our kids are doing.
Explain Your Decisions to Them
When your kids see the ads, the signs, the commercials, use that as an opportunity to explain why you are voting a certain way. I find explaining my choices to my kids makes me a better and more informed voter. Many times they will ask questions that lead us into researching topics about the candidates. Many of my younger high school students will come to school claiming they would vote for one candidate or the other, but they don’t know why. Chances are, it’s because their family feels strongly for one or the other. As an educator, I am expected, by law, to keep my views to myself. That’s the way it should be, but I can help them find resources to investigate the facts behind their beliefs. If we give them an avenue for research, they can be little vessels of information, rather than parrots of commercialized propaganda.
Take Them With You
This sounds like a nightmare right? Long lines. Quiet people. Tired personalities after a long day of work. And then, if you’re like me, you roll in with your entourage of noise, and disrupt America’s tradition. Okay, maybe don’t bring all of them, but the older children should go with you. Taking the mystery away from the voting process could really help in making your child excited to get out there and practice this wonderful freedom. I had to take all three of mine in 2012. My daughter could barely walk, my middle guy could only run back and forth repeatedly while laughing, and my oldest was trying to learn what to do when he becomes an 18-year-old voter. It was chaotic. What I learned from that experience is that although my oldest was seven, he was generally interested in the process, and that allowed for some pretty great dialogue regarding voting. The other two should have stayed home, but it wasn’t bad for them to see the process either. I also learned that you can apologize with your eyes when you walk out, and most people understand that you had no choice to bring your kids.
Where to Vote
In this time of information, finding a place to vote is a Google search away. One of the issues I had when I was young and naive is knowing where to start searching for this information. The Internet wasn’t used like it is today. Now, we have easy resources that can guide you in your search for answers. USA.gov offers many resources in terms of registering and finding your polling place.
Vote! Do it! Let those little people see democracy in action, and help them understand this world a little better. What are your election year tips? How do you juggle a divided house? Let us know on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or comment on our page.