Children And Politics — How To Introduce Government In The Home

When politics are a pivotal part of society and family values, children should be educated in the direction of government and country. It seems these days there are so many rules when navigating politics and discussing them with peers. Learn how to give age-appropriate lessons in the home.

Bright Horizons, an online family resource site, writes,

“Children need to understand the privileges and responsibilities that come with democracy so they’re ready to become active participants in the political process as adults.”

Addressing each age group according to their developmental stage is key to having them understand government and the political process to the best of their ability.

Don’t overwhelm a child with concepts beyond their comprehension — this can discourage them from seeking further information.

Preschool age children aren’t quite yet capable of abstract thinking. They still see the world in a simple way. Their primary mode of learning at this stage is modeling the behavior of those around them.

Bright Horizons points out how preschool age children “can’t understand our complex political system, but they can understand justness and fairness.”

When a toy is taken from them, retrieve it, and upon returning it to the child verbalize that it wasn’t fair to have it taken. On the same note, if your child acts inappropriately, it should be verbalized how actions have consequences; “now you can’t play with the blocks because you were throwing them.”

Here are some ideas on teaching preschool politics and government in the home:

  1. Verbalize and show how a parental role is like the President’s, one who helps lead the family justly and fairly while listening to the members of the family to meet their needs.

  2. Utilize voting when choosing ice cream flavors or deciding how to spend an evening out.

  3. Spend time helping others or doing something for your community.

  4. Take your child to the voting booth and let them see the process as you explain it.

Here are some preschool age-appropriate books recommended by Bright Horizons:

  • Duck for President  by Doreen Cronin, illustrations by Betsy Lewin

  • F is for Flag by Wendy Cheyette Lewison, illustrated by Barbara Duke

Elementary age children are able to delve into abstract thinking. Lessons for your school age child may be a little more involved. You can explain what a political party is and what each one generally stands for. It is important at this phase to start telling the history of America along with political concepts. The origin of this great nation gives foundation to any political viewpoint.

Principles of government are going to be relevant to your child, all you need to do is point them out. When a student body president is being elected at the school, explain the process and how your child has a voice that makes a difference for the whole body.

Patriotism can be explained but it should, more importantly, be modeled. Show through your actions that you are proud to be part of a country that involves its citizens in the political process and gives each person a meaningful voice to represent the values you hold dear.

At this stage, children begin to watch more mainstream television where they can see negative political advertisements. Talk with them about what they are seeing and why. Encourage them not to use such tactics with peers, and give them alternatives to addressing differing viewpoints.

Here are some ideas for outings that teach elementary age children politics and government:

  1. Go to American history museums.

  2. Take your child to the voting booths.

  3. Have them volunteer for a good cause.

  4. Find out a cause that they are passionate about to participate in.

Here are some government books recommended by Bright Horizons for elementary age children:

  • Bad Kitty for President by Nick Bruel

  • Grace for President by Kelly S. DiPucchio, illustrations by LeUyen Pham

  • Vote by Eileen Christelow

  • A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

  • The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dalgiesh

Dr. Robi Ludwig (nationally know psychotherapist and reporter) says, “you can’t force a child to be interested in a subject, but a parent can expose that child to information and engage her in discussion.”

Be mindful of how you model your respect for the government and the political process, and your children will become active parts of this nation they are privileged to be a part of.

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