A Happy Election Night at Home

Sheri Reed

Photo by xtinajp

Whether your Presidential candidate is in the lead or the race is too close to call, many parents can feel the squeeze of worry and anticipation on Election Day.

This Election Day and evening, you might find it difficult to keep the anxiety to a minimum. We asked author Jamie Woolf for a few ways to curb the tension at home and get your kids involved in Election Day in a positive way.

Here's what Jamie had to say:

There is no better time than this historic election to stress to your children the importance of being politically engaged so that you can play a part in raising a more politically engaged American electorate. And there's no better way to engage kids about anything than to have fun. So create games, design bumper stickers, and throw a party. The point is to get your kids excited about voting and to explain to them that being politically engaged and using their vote to speak their mind is a great way to affect the world around them. Behind the fun and games, you have a serious responsibility as a parent. Your kids look to you as their leader, and what you teach them now about being politically engaged will influence how they behave as adults. Here are some fun ways to gear up for the big day and create a memorable Election Day.

Get Campaign Creative

Help kids make campaign posters advocating for themselves or a friend they'd like to see in the White House. Make up campaign slogans, craft bumper stickers, design voting booths and ballots, complete with the names of pets. Come up with crazy propositions like the all popular No on Zucchini.

Go Political Surfing USA

There are several good websites for kids where kids can learn about the candidates, read campaign news, download directions about how to make voting booths, and download worksheets to use on Election Day. Here are a few:

  • PBS Kids, The Democracy Project: Kids can learn about becoming a President for a day and how our government works. It also allows kids to get into the voters booth and share what issues matter to them.
  • Kids Voting USA: This is designed for teachers but it provides election information for children in grades ranging from K-12.
  • Scholastic.com: Kids can vote for President, meet the candidates, read campaign news, read blogs written by kids, or launch their own campaign for President.
  • Brain Pop: Provides a video to explain the election to your kids in a simple, easy-to-grasp way.
  • TIME for Kids: TIME magazine has campaign games, information about the issues, and kid reporters sharing their own campaign experiences.

Look for the Political Spin

The most difficult thing to convey to your children with regard to the election is that they can't believe everything they hear on TV or everything they read online. With so many negative ads and false rumors floating around, you have to teach them to focus on the issues. Ask your kids which issues they think are the most important. Teach them how to effectively gather information about the candidates by reading newspaper articles together, watching debates as a family, talking about political issues around the dinner table, and visiting the candidates' websites.

Disagree with Mom's Politics

You have to be careful that you aren't forcing your political opinions on your children when you are engaging them in political conversations. Political discussion should be used to teach them how to be independent thinkers rather than simply plugging them into your 'momthink.' As a parent, it's your responsibility to show your children how to respect dissenting points of view by listening, considering ideas different from their own, and deepening their understanding of their own opinions. So, if your kids decide they would also vote for your candidate of choice, ask them to assume the other point of view as a fun way to foster critical thinking and guard against 'momthink.'

Take a Trip to the Voting Booth

You'll find that your kids really enjoy the process because it isn't something they can experience everyday. My nine-year-old daughter loves to vote. She loves to fill in the arrows or touch the touch screens and proudly walks away with an 'I Voted' sticker. Visiting the polls provides you with a great opportunity to talk to your children about the privilege of voting and the important role we play in the democratic process of our country. By showing your enthusiasm about voting to your own kids you can help reduce the apathy and cynicism about the political process so widespread among youth in the U.S. today.

Throw an Election Day Party

Because presidential elections only happen every four years, you can really create a lot of excitement around them that your kids will be receptive to. A great way to do that is by throwing an election night party and watching the election returns together. Doing this is a great way to not only make them politically engaged but also politically active.

Jamie Woolf has over twenty years of experience consulting to business leaders and holds an M.S. in industrial/organizational psychology from San Francisco State University. Based on her work inside dozens of organizations, Jamie lays out her "best practices" to enjoy more success at home and at work. She lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and two daughters. She blogs on mominchief.com, and her book Mom-in-Chief: How Wisdom from the Workplace Can Save Your Family from Chaos will hit bookstores in February 2009.

How do you get your kids involved on Election Day? If results don't go your way, how do you plan to keep the mood positive at home or do you?

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