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Elections: Encouraging Your Child’s Voice

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According to a recent Associated Press article, kids have predicted who would win the next election accurately for a while now. “Since it began in 1988, the kids have presaged the adults’ vote all but once, when more youngsters voted for John Kerry over George W. Bush in 2004. …(Timesunion.com) Recently, I noted that my daughter was making similar “noises” as her father about presidential candidates. I asked her who she would vote for and discovered that, indeed, her choice was the same as her father’s. Now I love having a cohesive, agreeable, like-minded family, but this troubled me. Elections are a chance for children to understand that they have a voice all their own.

Although I have found no evidence of this, I am guessing that most children vote—often in school or online—similarly to their parents. Why wouldn’t they? We make so many other decisions for them, from where we live to what’s for dinner. Why wouldn’t they follow us on our voting strategies as well? I could not help but feel that although my daughter is too young to vote, the election was an opportunity for her to think for herself and defend her right to do so. I wanted to be sure that she was aware of her freedom to choose as an individual and to be comfortable and familiar with her own voice. Not sure exactly how to start this conversation, I reminded my daughter that her father and I do not always agree when it comes to politics, but respect one another’s opinions, even though they sometimes frustrate us! I asked her why she made her presidential choice. To my relief, she was able to articulate her reasons, her disappointments, her hopes for the future, and her concerns over the extremes of each party. She had paid attention during the debates her history teacher had asked her to watch.

As you drive across town and see the endless political signs propped on lawns and taped to trees over the next couple of weeks, I encourage you to have a conversation about the upcoming elections with your child. I will never forget my father’s words to me about voting in an election years ago, “How arrogant would it be of me to be too lazy to vote when those who came before me died for the right?” Talk to them about voting, about citizenship and, so importantly, about the right and responsibility of having a voice. Perhaps you will find some relief like I did that, despite the constant doom and gloom predictions, our future leaders (and voters) are paying attention, do care and have a strong, clear and courageous voice.

[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]

October 24, 2014

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