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Style Magazine

Time To Vote

Sep 30, 2008 05:00PM ● By Super Admin

Talking politics isn’t pretty. Issues get complicated, passions heat up and friends can get their…er…underthings in a wad rather quickly. You’d think it’d be easy, but it can be even more daunting to discuss politics with your kids. Let’s face it, some political campaigns make playground arguments look like elevated discussions of policy. But depending on how you look at it, it can pose a challenge or serve as an opportunity.

Of course, the depth of the discussion will be determined by the age and maturity of the child. A five-year-old may simply want to know whom to root for, while a 15-year-old may want to learn more about a proposed property tax initiative for a new school, because her’s is overcrowded and the outcome will directly affect her.

And, that depth will also be determined by your knowledge. If you find yourself saying, “go ask your mother/father,” maybe study up a little. A good starter resource is the Easy Voter Guide, published by the League of Women Voters. The League’s Lisa Fredrickson says it’s designed to be a CliffsNotes of sorts for voters. “It’s written very simply. Our effort is to try to take the highlights (of each candidate and issue), provide a basic overview and refer people to where they can get more information,” says Frederickson. As for addressing an issue with your child, Fredrickson has her own approach. “Focus on an issue or two that gets your child’s attention. One of my daughters is very interested in the environment, so I’ll sit down and research with her, right down to finding the candidate who supports the issues that matter to her.”

Some parents are quite politically aware, but that doesn’t mean that they have their kids watching Meet the Press and taking notes. Greg Jones is a member of the El Dorado Republican National Committee and volunteers for various campaigns, and for his 10 year-old and six year-old, the political tutorials from dad come sparingly. “My kids know that I’m involved in politics, but I try to let their interest evolve at its own rate,” says Jones. With as many things as a typical kid has going on in his or her life, Jones’ belief is to let them be interested in things at their own pace. Jones says, “If it’s politics one day and sports another, that’s fine. I never want to cram politics or anything down their throats.”

For older kids, Syreeta Harada, a political science professor at Sierra College says a good approach is to show them “that politics are very much a part of their daily lives.” To illustrate this point, Harada gives students a handout that she says shows “from the time they awake to the sound of the garbage truck from the waste management government department, until they go to sleep, secure under the services provided by the local police department, their lives are intertwined with the government.”

What about explaining the consistent chasm - like differences in opinion that pervade politics? Harada says parents should identify with their own family values and show how that leads to a decision to support one candidate or issue over another. But, she also says it’s important to demonstrate that perception matters. “Show children that one candidate isn’t necessarily better than another, but that they are both unique and have different perceptions on how to govern.” Ah, Good luck with that one!

And if all else fails, try this simple suggestion from the Web site for New York University’s Child Study Center (, they say the best way to talk to kids about politics “is the same way you talk to them about any other subject: with understanding, patience, and encouragement to ask questions.”

Come to think of it, that’s a good way for adults to talk about politics, too.