The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Go vote, and take your kids with you

(Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

It’s been an interesting few days, trying to explain midterms to a 7-year-old. (This morning: “But I don’t understand. Dad told me we’d get a new president when I was 9.”)

I’m so glad he’s interested. I want him to understand the importance of voting, of the fact that we even have the right to vote, and why it matters who he will someday vote for himself. Like many parents, I’ll bring him with me to vote tomorrow, along with the 4-year-old, just as I went with my parents as a child. (I still remember the ugly 1970s voting booth curtains hanging at my elementary school.)

Learning by living is exactly what election day is about. We talk a lot in our family about making the world a better place, and tomorrow morning is one example of that. Now: How to explain all of this, and the importance of it? Deborah Gilboa, a family physician and parenting expert based in Pittsburgh, has a few good ways to explain it all to your kids. Read on and don’t forget to vote:

1. Voting is an important responsibility. Mayors, governors and state representatives affect our lives, often far more than presidents. Explain why you need to vote in non-presidential elections.

2. Voting shows kids that adults are working to make their world a better place, and are participating in a process Americans are fortunate to have.

3. When we take kids with us to vote, we teach them to respect process and rules, as well as to respect change.

4. Very few kids make it through a trip to the voting booth without asking great questions. If you do not have all the answers (and who does?), research the answers together.

5. Voting teaches kids and teens to be change-makers. Demonstrate that you believe problems have solutions, and that the voting process consists of groups of people making decisions on how to generate those solutions.

Living in Washington D.C. has its advantages: Our kids often see people demonstrating and picketing and ask what they are doing. They get to go to places like the Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials. They learn about how life has changed thanks to some very strong characters.

Voting with us helps to reinforce that although society can seem broken and unfair, we have the power to change it ourselves. I’m looking forward to the conversations in the years to come.

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