Election Connection: Raising a Thoughtful, Engaged, and Informed VoterAdvice
As it has from its inception, American Girl encourages girls to explore the past, find their place in the present, and think about the possibilities the future can bring. The U.S. election season, for all its complexity, presents an opportunity to do all three.
Often, student council elections offer kids their first opportunity to participate in a political process, and public elections offer parents and teachers the opportunity to guide kids’ understanding of how American democracy operates. Granted, that can be difficult when elections are contentious and sound bites from the campaign trail are anything but kid-friendly. But when you strip away all the complexity and spectacle, voting is about community and problem solving; it’s about participating in a decision-making process that impacts everyone.
“We have school elections coming up for student body president. There will be an all-school assembly to get to know the candidates, and you’ll each get to vote.”
—Mrs. Duncan, Julie’s civics teacher at Jack London Elementary School
So whether your girl is participating in school elections, like Julie in Soaring High, or you are following national campaigns together, talking about voting and the electoral process helps your daughter learn about the very foundation of American democracy, its history, and her rights and responsibilities within it. Examining local, state, and federal elections can be an incredibly enriching experience, and you can help your daughter sort out what’s important by focusing on these key strategies:
Talk about the importance of voting.
Whatever your political beliefs, discuss the right and responsibility of voting as part of our democratic process. While the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote wasn’t ratified until 1920, women fought for decades for their right to vote and for their voices to be heard. You and your girl can read about how Samantha’s Aunt Cornelia joined with other suffragists to protest in Lost and Found.
“You and the other ladies who spoke today were simply saying that women should stand up for what they think is right. That’s exactly what I believe, too. And if that’s what voting will give us a chance to do, then I think women should vote. The time for change has come.”
Set the right tone.
By Election Day, you’ve probably decided which candidates will get your vote. Talk with your girl about how you made your decision and why you support one candidate over the other. Keep negativity and name-calling to a minimum, though, and try to stick to the facts about your favorite candidates’ experience and ideas.
Separate politics and friendship.
It can be easy to put down the other candidates and their supporters. But, remember that your girl is watching and listening. So be a good role model. Kids at school are likely talking about the election and who’s “right” or “wrong.” Encourage your girl to be accepting and open-minded about others’ views and let her know that even if she disagrees with her friend’s opinions, they can still be friends.
Ask her what she thinks.
When you see and hear news about the election, ask your girl if she has questions or if there was something about what one of the candidates said that struck a chord with her. She may be too young to understand foreign policy, but try to help her get a grasp on how the branches of the government work and why there are two major parties, and encourage her to ask questions about any of the big issues making the news.
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