Kids have more questions about politics and government. This can be an opportunity to teach them about different types of political systems.
Use real-life examples to make the topic more relatable. For example, when your child sees a man sleeping on the street or a road being repaired with tax dollars, that is an example of local politics.
Explain the Electoral College
The Electoral College is the formal body that determines who becomes president. Each state gets a certain number of “electors” (electoral votes) equal to its Congressional representation, plus three for Washington, D.C. The Constitution’s authors adopted this system based on a belief that careful and calm deliberation by states would lead to the best presidential candidates.
One criticism of the Electoral College is that it can produce results that diverge from popular vote outcomes, but this is not always the case. The Constitution allows states to “bind” their electors, meaning they pledge to vote for a specific candidate. Historically, faithless electors were rare, but they are still allowed.
It’s important to have open conversations about politics with kids of all ages. Read reputable books, websites and watch documentaries together, including materials that present viewpoints you don’t agree with. This teaches children that you can accept and consider views that differ from your own. The goal is to help your child understand that political decisions don’t have to be made based solely on emotion.
Explain the Party System
Politics is a subject many parents shy away from with their children, but they should try to make politics an engaging topic to help them become informed and engaged citizens. By elementary age, kids are aware of political messaging on television and social media and start to understand that we live in a democracy with different ideas.
They can also start to distinguish fact from opinion in the news and learn how to find a source they trust. Teach them that politicians are people just like them and have virtues and flaws. They can understand that there are good reasons to vote for someone and bad reasons, but they should always listen to the other side of an argument before forming their own opinions.
Even younger children have a keen interest in politics because laws affect their daily lives. That pothole in the street the two of you drive through every day, for example, is part of a government decision that affects everyone.
Explain the Voting Process
When it comes to the electoral college, many kids have trouble understanding that a handful of votes in one state can swing an entire election. You can help your children better understand this complicated system by talking to them about how close the 2016 race was and how a single vote in Florida made all the difference.
It’s also important to remind your kids that politics are not black and white. You can do this by introducing them to different political viewpoints and talking about the milestones of the women’s suffrage movement or the 15th Amendment, which allowed black men to vote.
You can also help your kids stay current by introducing them to the electoral college, discussing the differences between different government systems, and showing them how to research political issues on their own. Just make sure to keep conversations about politics light and respectful so they don’t turn into arguments.
Explain the Elections
Children naturally have an interest in politics, even at a young age. Whether it’s seeing a disabled person collecting for charity or a soldier with poppies on their head, they may ask questions about how certain decisions come to be made.
At this stage, you can focus on how laws and legislation affect their day-to-day lives and use a wide range of Parliament resources for kids to help them understand. It’s important not to push your own political views, but you can show them how laws are put together and how the voting process works.
As they get older, you can introduce them to wider concepts like democracy and citizenship. Talk about political parties and their platforms, explain how elections work and the role of media. You can also discuss political ads, showing them how they are designed to evoke emotions and encourage discussion. It’s also a good idea to take them to vote, to give them a real sense of how the voting system works.