Today is the day America votes for the next president of the United States. In fact, you may be reading this in line at your polling place right now.
Generally, children are not as heavily affected by a presidential election. They may learn about the election in school and hold mock debates; while teenagers may be more engaged the closer they are to voting age.
We spoke with Children’s National pediatric psychologist Randi Streisand, PhD, to find out how you can talk to your children about elections.
“The election is really at the forefront of conversation right now. This is a really great time to teach your kids about government, how democracy works, and explain our right to vote and what that means,” Streisand said.
She said that it’s also important to bring your children with you to vote, if you can, to give them a more concrete understanding of what it all means.
“Use this time to teach tolerance to your children. Kids may only hear one side of the top issues because parents may believe strongly a certain way, but it’s important to teach them the other side,” she said.
Streisand warned that with older children, this may be a time when topics are brought up that parents are not prepared to talk about yet, like abortion. For parents tackling difficult discussions, she said it’s best to use history of laws for explanation.
“Teaching can continue after the election,” Streisand said. “When the president is chosen, you can describe how the president-elect got there. Talk about what will stay the same and what will be different. For the DC area, parents may work for the administration and may be thinking about their job.”
The most important thing you can teach your children during this election time, Streisand said, is how to respect different people and differing opinions.