Politics and religion are sometimes considered taboo topics at dinner parties, but what about family dinner?
“The key to making sense of the election is explaining politics in a way that a child can understand and digest,” says Claire Haas, vice president of education for Kiddie Academy, a nationwide educational child care provider. ”In fact, parents shouldn’t miss this great opportunity to teach their families about expressing and respecting differing opinions.”
Haas offers the following tips and election-related activities for children:
Have a party: Encourage your child to create his or her own mock political party. Children can decide on their platform, create a symbol and even debate siblings or friends on the merits of their party. Perhaps the winner gets to choose the next movie to see or meals for a week.
Vote on it: Macaroni and cheese or tacos for dinner? Create a mock voting booth and ballots for each member of the family. When all the votes have been cast, tally the results and talk about the process and how it relates to choosing a president.
Dinnertime debate: Give each member of the family two minutes over dinner to discuss why they prefer one candidate over the other. Be sure to include younger children – it may result in some unique perspectives. Children can practice important life skills, including active listening, respect for others and taking turns.
Provide age-appropriate answers: Younger children may simply want to know what an election means, in the most basic terms. Older kids will likely want more details.
Explain yourself: Particularly if you are passionate about the candidate you prefer, take the time to explain why. Defend your position and what you like or don’t like about each candidate. Encourage kids to ask questions or choose a candidate they prefer, even if it’s not the same as your own choice.
Write a letter: Whether an email or old-school ink-and-paper, writing a letter to a politician is a great way to demonstrate the democratic process and the importance of sharing opinions. In an election year, it’s likely your child will get a response.