How to Engage Your Children in the Election Process

The 2008 Presidential election is regarded by many as one of the most significant events in American history. Just because your children are too young to vote does not mean they cannot participate in this important occasion. How do we teach our children that voting is one of the most important rights that we have as Americans?

Chances are your children have been hearing about the election from their teachers in school, their friends, and the media. But what kind of messages are they receiving and how much do your kids really know about the election process? Parents often find it difficult to explain the election in terms that kids will understand, and it can be difficult to find ways to discuss the election that are meaningful to children.

Here are some activities you can do with your children to help them understand the importance of the 2008 Presidential Election.

-Keep a Journal. Encourage your child to keep an election day journal where they paste clippings from the newspapers and magazines. Have them write a brief summary of the article and include their opinion on the subject. Be sure to have them review local stories relating to the candidates and voters. This piece will be a valuable piece of history to your family years after the election has taken place.

-Ask questions. Encourage your child to ask questions to older siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents about what they think about the issues facing our country and the future. Ask your children who they would vote for and discuss the reasons why.

-Take your children with you when you vote. Let them see how excited you are to exercise this important right! Your children look up to you and they will be more likely to become active citizens in the future when they see democracy in action.

-Utilize the World Wide Web! Visit election Websites designed specifically for kids. These sites will help your children understand the election process, and provide parents with helpful discussion tools:

Time For Kids
http://www.timeforkids.com/TFK/election08/
This site has been created to teach kids the basics of world news and current events. It features a ‘Meet the Candidates’ section that introduces both candidates and their running mates to young citizens. Also includes games for children to play online including ‘Be the Nominee’ and ‘Electoral College Craze’.

Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids
http://bensguide.gpo.gov/
With Benjamin Franklin as their guide, this site is broken into age groups for parents to easily identify age appropriate activities and resources to help kids learn more about the different branches of government.

The Democracy Project on PBS Kids
http://pbskids.org/democracy/
Find out what is so great about 2008 in this interactive site containing useful activities for kids and outlines how our government affects them.

Nickelodeon’s Kids Pick the President
http://www.nick.com/kpp/
An interactive site with streaming media with kids reporting on the issues and the campaign trail. Kids can interact with one another on the message boards and get to know the Election Connection team through their blog. Has a very useful feature that allows kids access to information on both candidates and their running mates.

Read to your children. Here are a few titles that could help your child understand the election process and its historical significance. Check with your local libraries for availability and additional resources.

My Dad, John McCain
by Meghan McCain

Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope
by Nikki Grimes

Election Connection: The Official Nick Guide to Electing the President
Nickelodeon

Election Day (Rookie Read-About Holidays)
Patricia J. Murphy

The Kid Who Ran For President
Dan Gutman

Presidential Elections: And Other Cool Facts
Syl Sobel

About the Author:
Patty Leonard is the founder and CEO of Family Values Cinema, a California-based DVD-of-the-month club providing wholesome family films directly to mailboxes for members to keep and collect. The collection of family movies at Family Values Cinema have earned Parents Television Council’s prestigious Entertainment Seal of Approval, which recognizes excellence and social responsibility in programming. Patty is also the founding member of The National Board of Mothers; an organization that rates films targeted for families. Visit their Website, http://www.familyvaluescinema.com, to learn how to receive a free trial membership for your family.

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