What was your immediate, personal reaction to the results of Tuesday’s presidential election? As the votes streamed in, were you elated, discouraged, relieved, enraged? Well, whether you’ve been dancing on your swivel chair or hanging your head since Tuesday’s election, I’d like to point out the true winners: kids.
Sometimes parents, teachers and even politicians assume that elections are too nasty, too complex, or too boring, for kids to follow. This is a mistake. Especially in an election like the one we’ve just lived through. It’s been custom-made for kids, filled with dynamic, colorful characters, plenty of grand, easy-to-grasp changes (first woman Republican VP candidate, first Black Democratic presidential nominee) and more plot twists than a Harry Potter novel. Ironically, the media has been parents’ friend here – all you’ve had to do to educate children about the political process for the past year has been to hit the power button on the radio or tv remote, or open the local newspaper. Parents’ poli sci task has never been so easy.
And fun, too. Even if your child covered her ears when CNN comes on, few kids failed to see the humor in Amy Pohler and Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live skits, the Obama Presidential Playing Cards, or an eight year old dressed up as John McCain on Halloween.
No need to delve into the details of Obama’s tax plan or McCain’s health insurance proposal. Kids will remember the symbolic changes when they are grandparents. I was nine when Nixon resigned; I will never forget my parents, too awestruck to sit, standing in our living room watching our black and white tv screen. I vaguely remember the long gas lines and hostage crisis that plagued Jimmy Carter’s presidency; what really changed me was the fact that he had women in his cabinet.
Although our kids may not always agree with our specific political views – my family has been divided among the candidates for much of the past two years – children care deeply about the things their parents care about. Like so much of raising kids, getting them engaged politically comes naturally when you show that you care – by reading the newspaper, debating the issues, watching the SNL Palin rap skit 20 times in a row, taking the family to a rally, the polls, or the inauguration. The empowerment our kids feel today – years before they can possibly cast a vote – will strengthen us, and our country, for decades to come.
To hear Leslie and her 11 year old son Max discuss kids and politics on National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More” election day coverage, click here .