Helping children cope with curiosity about elections
As parents, we all want our children to grow up to be responsible citizens of the country, actively participating in the growth of the nation. We can often resort to over protecting them from various ideologies instead of educating them in a way that helps them differentiate between the positive and the negative.
They already know ‘elections’
Whether you like it or not, children have overheard and picked up a lot of information from the conversations happening around them. Be it small discussions with friends, learning about parliament in the classroom or listening to your conversation at the lunch table, kids ‘know’ a lot more than you realise.
Most often than not, kids are also aware of many political issues because of the news doing its rounds on the television and through social media. Hence, instead of picking up bits and pieces of information from elsewhere, it is good to engage kids in useful topics and stories, age appropriately of course. In this way, they will learn how to discern and differentiate between fact and fiction.
Ease fears through awareness
There is much activity that comes along with every election. People organise rallies, protests and the media covers all the excitement and confusion 24/7. We all know that these topics often induce a feeling of fear and bewilderment in kids who may not be so comfortable with a politically charged environment.
Younger children may get worried as they have a short attention span and often pick up only the alarming bits of information from a conversation. There are many things they do not know and when they are unable to understand the matter, it might create unnecessary distress in their minds. Telling them about the situation creates context and it will help them understand some important issues of today without being fearful or anxious.
Present views respectfully
A lot of time we watch election candidates engaging in heated debates where they choose poor communication methods when disagreeing with each other. Such instances can be used as opportunities to explain to kids about respecting the views of others and teaching them how to express their discontent in the right way.
Kids need to understand that we are bound to disagree with each other on certain issues but what matters the most is the way we choose to disagree. In this way, kids will learn how to have an opinion and at the same time respect the view of others.
A sense of social responsibility
Teaching them about politics doesn’t mean you should indoctrinate your kids, it is about inculcating a sense of responsibility in them. While they learn concepts like justice and equality in the classroom, answering their questions about the importance of voting can help them become socially responsible citizens in future.
Young children might find it difficult to understand the complexity of the political system but they do understand the basic concepts of fairness or justice, which form an important part of democracy.
You can teach the children little facts about the role of a parliamentarian or prime minister. Voting can also be made easy and fun to understand by creating opportunities for children to learn the mechanism; they can vote for the location of the next family holiday or what game to play on game night.
With older children, who understand about the government and different political parties, you can teach them about democracy, history of the nation and patriotism.
Fun activities with kids
Young children mostly learn through imitation. Hence, you can take them with you when you go to the polls (just not inside the voting booth!) or for a visit to historical sites and museums where learning can be fun. Get involved in issues which affect the lives of others such as conservation of natural resources, improving education for the less privileged or other volunteering activities that you are interested in.
Though these things do not relate directly to politics or voting, children learn a lot about how small acts can make a big difference in the lives of others. In older children, the learning deepens as they read stories and explore the history of their nation. Eventually, they will also participate in debates or discussions at school and develop an interest in volunteering for various activities and causes.
Learning about politics or history doesn’t have to be dull or inflict fear. Engaging your child in conversations that are interesting and thoughtful, and visits to historical sites and museums, will make them aware of their social responsibility as citizens of the country and they will eventually understand the different facets of politics.