One thing this election cycle has done is to bombard the public with negative impressions about the American democratic process. Your children are absorbing all of this in as well- and getting a very negative first impression of our how our nation elects our representatives in government. But negativity is not the whole picture. We know that there are many honest and good citizens who seek office with the sincere motivation to make our nation a better place. And while cynics and pundits may make headlines by gleefully sneering at the side shows in politics, the silent majority of Americans are hopefully expectant that election day will be the beginning of a better time. For all it's faults, most Americans take great pride in what this nation is, and what it potentially could be. Deep down, most of us have faith that our democratic process is the best the world has to offer, and we have feel that our elections will make us even stronger nation.
As a patriotic parent, you want your children to love America as much as you do. So how can you teach your children about American democracy without them being permanently affected by the negativity they are seeing in the media? Here are five 'winning' things parents can do to make election day special and give kids a positive view of our democratic process:
1. Be a Role Model of Involvement
Volunteer in a political campaign and give your kids a firsthand look at how their democracy works by getting them involved, too. Start by giving them a candidate's T-shirt, cap or button. Plant a campaign sign in the front yard. They'll have lots of fun going door-to-door with you, handing our flyers, or working in campaign headquarters.
2. Watch the Debates Together
Watch the candidates' debate on TV and ask the kids who they thought won. For older kids, you might consider attending the debate, if open to the public. If you've got a houseful, organize your own "political debate" at the dinner table. For once, the kids can actually argue with your blessing, but it is a great opportunity to model that you can argue a political point, but still love and respect those with different views.
3. Play Politics
Children play as a safe and fun way to prepare themselves for future adult roles. Encourage them to role play about politics. Suggest to your child's teacher that the class have a mock election at school. Kids Voting USA offers special age-appropriate Election Day activities. Classes from kindergarten through high school can exercise their "right" to vote through this hands-on learning experience. Find out if there is a Kids Voting USA affiliate near you and if such a program can established at your children's school. It's non-partisan- and fun.
4. Get Out The Vote With Your Kids
On Election Day, involve your kids in get-out-the-vote activities, and then throw your own election night party at your home for friends, neighbors, and the kids. Or, if you are working for a candidate, let your kids join the party at campaign headquarters to watch the returns come in.
5. Kid Candidates
Got a kid with political ambitions? Encourage him or her to run for school office (even if you have to handle the tears that might go with the agony of defeat). In order to run a campaign, they will need a campaign manager, a snappy campaign slogan, and a platform. Make the campaign a family affair with everyone pitching in to make posters and buttons as well as being resident guinea pigs for the candidate's speech practices. Running for office is a great way to understand the challenge and excitement of the democratic process. It will give your child new respect for candidates who put themselves on the line this way.
Attorney Sean Y. Palmer has over 18 years of legal experience as a Texas Attorney and over 24 years as a Qualified Mediator in civil, family and CPS cases. Palmer practices exclusively in the area Family Law and handles Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Adoptions, and other Family Law Litigation cases. He represents clients throughout the greater Houston Galveston area, including: Clear Lake, NASA, Webster, Friendswood, Seabrook, League City, Galveston, Texas City, Dickinson, La Porte, La Marque, Clear Lake Shores, Bacliff, Kemah, Pasadena, Baytown, Deer Park, Harris County, and Galveston County, Texas.