Raising Kids Who Will Vote

Voting is important, so why do so few people actually do it? How do we get our kids involved so that when they come of age they will be engaged enough to head out to the polls?

"Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting." Franklin D. Roosevelt

Ok I admit it…my family is a political family. We probably spend more time than most people do sitting around the dinner table discussing politics and the news of the day. We have always felt that voting was important, but within the last few years we have made a decision to “take it to the next level” in regards to our involvment. I ran for local office for the first time last year. Even though I didn't win, we're still involved in elections. Now, when election season comes around, we canvass neighborhoods, work the polls, and help put out signs. I'm quite proud to admit that even my youngest child who is only six, has had campaign experience--and not just from my campaign...

My goal as a parent has been to raise children who would be involved citizens. I hope they will care enough about God and country to vote their values. I want my kids to grow up knowing they have the power to make a difference through voting. So how do you raise kids who will vote?

Politics can be a nasty business, so be sure to emphasize the positive. Our personal beliefs shape the way we vote, but when talking to our children, we try to explain our point of view without degrading the other side. Personally, I enjoy talking about issues with friends whose political views are totally opposite of mine. Be sure to explain to your kids that not everyone will feel exactly the same way that you do about politics.

Let them ask questions, and answer those questions to the best of your ability. One day while I was washing dishes my son asked me what abortion was. This was not exactly an easy question to answer! We have a tendency to think that these difficult issues might be beyond our child’s level of comprehension. I have found however that my kids understand a lot more issues an I originally thought they would.

Get them involved. Politics doesn’t have to be boring! Attend a meet and greet for a candidate, so your child can meet a candidature in person. The candidate you might be voting for will seem a lot more real when you meet them in person than if you just stick a sign with their name on it in your yard. 

Recently, my friend Erica, watched the Presidential debates with her son. By watching together she could take the time to explain an issue to him right there. You might be surprised with how interested your child may be in something others have a tendency to label as boring.

Take them to the polls with you. Often kids are off school on Election Day so take them along when you vote. It is good for them to be able to watch the process for themselves. My kids have been going along to vote with me since they were babies, so it is something they look forward to now.

My ten year old son said to me recently “I don’t understand why kids can’t vote…after all I know the issues!” I thought this was particularly cute, but had to stifle a laugh because I know he was really upset about this. Since he’s not old enough to vote this year, we’ve decided to hold a “mock election” at our house. Although his vote won’t count in the national election, it will be an opportunity for him to get familiar with the process so he will (hopefully) continue to vote as an adult.

So get creative and get those kids involved in the process now! After all the future of our country is in their hands…

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Elizabeth O'Fallon November 06, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Get your kids involved in the process of voting, it may make a difference for their lifetime.
Sonny Pondrom November 10, 2012 at 04:15 PM
FDR was correct when speaking to whites in the '30s. But this last election has shown us that somebody has tried to deprive the black, Hispanic and generally Democratic American people of the right to vote. Where this was too deficult, they made it harder to vote by reducing the early voting proceedures. Fortunately for Missouri, we have a Democratic governor because only a handful of Republican governors are guitly of restricting voters rights.
Elizabeth O'Fallon November 14, 2012 at 02:23 PM
I think that our process needs improvement, but are you talking about voter id laws? How is a voter id law automatically racist? I have been a candidate for office before, as I ran for Florissant City Council last year. On my "voter rolls" list that I purchased from St. Louis County board of elections, there were nearly 2 times as many "registered voters" than people who actually lived in my ward. That to me signals a problem, and the only thing that comes to mind is voter fraud. During lasts week's election, some counties in Florida had a ridiculous amount of turn out--141% turnout! Considering how even during a Presidential election it can be challenging to get more than half of your state to vote, there are obviously some serious issues with our voter rolls nationwide. http://www.slcelections.com/Pdf%20Docs/2012%20General/GEMS%20SOVC%20REPORT.pdf Cleaning up voter rolls is one of the duties of the Secretary of State for each individual state. Considering the inaccuracies just within one Ward of Florissant, I don't have much confidence that our voter rolls statewide or nationwide are accurate at all.
Christie Norrick November 15, 2012 at 03:07 PM
The UMSL Extension program "Kids Voting" was a fun way for youth to try their hands at the democratic process. I had the opportunity to volunteer with 4th - 6th grade students in Jennings as they cast their votes through the online system. Some youth knew a lot more about candidates than others and voted with more conviction. By having discussions around the dinner table to reinforce what children learn at school and nurture their desire to learn and think critically, we will create an inform, engaged electorate.
Elizabeth O'Fallon November 22, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Thanks Christine for the info! My kids had a great time at our little mock election. I believe engaging children before they become adults is the best way to help them stay involved and participate as adults.


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