How To Talk With Your Child About The Election – The importance of Voice and Choice

On November 3, 2020, election results could shape the future of Boulder Country Day School.

The tension is palpable… Yard signs are posted. T-shirts are actively displayed. Dialogue among the students, employees, and parents can be heard in almost every corner of the school, and rightly so – as this may be the most important election of our time.

Both candidates are cute and furry. One candidate really likes berries, and the other candidate really likes beets. Who will win the election? Sherman or Humphrey?

At times, the candidate debates bordered on contentious, yet both Sherman and Humphrey remained committed to civil discourse and stuck to pressing issues: healthcare, fracking, beets, berries. A mute button was not needed.

Election procedures were explained and thoughtfully undertaken in every grade. “Carefully fill in only ONE oval.”

Ballot boxes were sealed to safeguard against voter fraud, and “I Voted!” stickers were provided as proof of completion.

Every four years, BCD’s Guinea Pig election (run by our 3rd grade students) provides us with an opportunity to talk with our children about how elections work and WHY they are important. I’m sure that there were many factors that contributed to the children’s voting decisions. Who is cuter? Whose fur is softer? Who really hates beets or who really likes berries?

The point is, children were encouraged to make their own choice – based on whatever happened to have spoken to them personally. 

Sherman and Humphrey serve as a welcome distraction from partisan politics and headline stories. They also provide us with an opportunity to talk with our children about the importance of living in a democratic society where we have the privilege to vote. Sherman and Humphrey gently open the door to talking about WHY election processes are important and how elections give ordinary people a powerful voice and choice.

According to Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting, involving kids in voting teaches them a real-life lesson in democracy and governance — including the challenges and the parts that still need to be improved. It also provides opportunities to discuss your voting choices and values.

It goes without saying… Preschool-age children should not be exposed to CNN or FOX News headlines. However, we can use political issues to talk about things they can relate to – such as fairness. When talking with your preschooler, Dr. Laura recommends using the following language:

  • “Voting is one way that people make decisions about how we will live and work together. For instance, let’s vote on whether to have pizza or pasta tonight.”
  • “The President is the most powerful leader in the government. We all vote so that everyone gets to say who they think should serve as President. If only certain people got to decide, that wouldn’t be fair, would it?”
  • “All those signs in front of people’s houses are showing who they plan to vote for. They’re hoping that their sign will make you want to vote for the person they like. What do you think about that?”

In her article, Dr. Laura also includes language that parents can use when talking with their elementary or middle school age students. To read her full article focusing on tips for talking with your child about the election, click here.

As parents, we need to remember that helping children learn to talk about political differences of opinion is important. It helps model for them how people can disagree about what is best for our country, and still be civil – even friendly – with each other regardless of whether they prefer berries or beets. Children are the creators of, and contributors to, the world and the culture in which we live. They are our future – people who will think, create, and write policies rooted in acceptance, understanding, tolerance, and peaceful interactions. We need to intentionally teach and model for them how they can lead the way to tomorrow.

And, when I think about our Bulldogs, I cannot help but think that the future really will be a lovely place.

With appreciation and gratitude,

Kath Courter, Head of Preschool