Engaging your child, tween, or teen in the political process can be a healthy exercise that can promote their personal opinions, enhance their public speaking skills, and foster their healthy identity.
When my son was four years old his class participated in a mock presidential election. True, these pint-sized votes wouldn’t be officially cast, but it did mark the first time he actively engaged with his peers about our political process.
The children were seated in a semi-circle. At the front of the room was a large poster of each candidate. Their teacher introduced the presidential nominees by name and used a map to point out the city and state they were born. She gave a couple of brief, relatable facts about each candidate’s agenda. “President Clinton,” she explained, “thinks it would be a good idea for all students to wear uniforms to school. This means if he wins the election he would like school uniforms to be a requirement. Each of you would come to school every day wearing clothes that look the same. He believes it will help you to focus more on what you should be learning and less on what you and your classmates are wearing.” As she held up a picture of a boy and girl in their school uniforms she went around the room and asked each of her students what they thought.
Across town teachers at the local high school were hosting a mock election of their own. For weeks, educators had been engaging students on the issues, and the proposal of mandating school uniforms proved to be one of the hot topics. Students were asked to research the issue and present a case in support of or against this potential measure. Could school uniforms help create a more disciplined, more orderly atmosphere? Did they believe it would encourage students to focus more on their academics and less on their outward appearance?
These types of formal and informal social interactions are not only a great workout for the brainVisit: http://med.stanford.edu/chri.html and http://web.stanford.edu/group/hopes/cgi-bin/hopes_test/neuroplasticity/#strategies-for-promoting-brain-reorganization, but are wonderful platforms for children of all ages to exercise their voice and tune-in to a variety of perspectives. Diversity opens pathways for children to amend their opinions based on new information and teaches them to make healthy, well-informed choices that can follow them into their adulthood. For sure, elections have a way of inducing angst, but they are also a perfect time to discuss democracy, promote diplomacy, and encourage [by example] the art of listening and engaging with others who feel differently than we do.
Introduce your child to opportunities that stimulate thoughts, ideas, and actions that mirror healthy attitudes:
- Host regular family meetings and give each child the time and attention to speak freely. These are not only wonderful moments to discuss planning family vacations and household responsibilities, but also a perfect time to look for volunteer opportunities with charitable organizationsThere are volunteer opportunities for children of all ages. Help your child identify a role within a charitable organization that is developmentally appropriate and right for them. that are meaningful to you and your family.
- Encourage your child to run for school office and your teenTeens are developing their identities. Internal questions like who am I and who can I become make up a considerable part of this period in their lives. Encourage your teen to engage in higher level of involvement like helping out at the local campaign office by answering phones and sending out mailers. to help out with a local or national campaign. Take the time to discuss viewpoints, which will help your teen identify a campaign they get behind.
These practices can lead to discovery, promote your child’s inner and outer voice, and foster an innate sense of who they are and who they can become.
Enjoy the ride and support your child! These are experiences they will savor!