The Valley School

THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILDREN

We also realized that parents may be confronting these problems at home. Older children absorb the news and younger ones may listen to the news as you commute to and from school. Every place you go people are talking about the election and often children will hear adults upset, angry or discouraged about current politics. Many teachers in Washington State and elsewhere are choosing not to teach about the election this year, but parents don’t have the luxury of ignoring the election when their children have questions.

I did some research and put together a list of resources for teachers that I thought might be useful in the classroom during the final weeks of the election. One take away from my research is that no matter how you feel about the election, avoiding the topic is probably a bad idea. If your child is in the lower school, you may be able to turn off the radio, deflect conversations and keep your child insulated from the discussion. But if an older child has questions, you should be prepared to discuss the election and relate it to your family’s beliefs and values.

An article by Jen Kirby in the New York Times did a good job of describing how elementary school children view politics and current events, The 2016 Election According to 8 Year Olds (http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/08/the-2016-election-according-to-8-year-olds.html.) Other articles suggest focusing on aspects of the election that kids might not understand: what does the president do and what skills the president needs to have, how does voting work, what are political parties, and maybe the electoral college if you are ambitious.

Sandra Day O’Connor founded a site called icivics (https://www.icivics.org/,)that has games to teach about civics, including the presidential election. “Win the White House” is not as exciting as a “real” video game, but it is humorous and it would be a fun way to learn about the election with your child. There is an elementary school level and your candidate wins points for positive campaigning, staying on message and understanding the issues. 

Finally, let your children see you work for change and for the issues that are important to you. Get involved in a local or national campaign or cause. Tell your child why you chose your candidate and then work for them. Make a few get-out-the-vote phone calls and  tell your kids about them and show them where you called on a map. Model the behavior that you want your child to emulate, be someone who is involved and works to make things better. Win or lose, democracy depends on an informed and engaged electorate and now is the perfect time to show rather than tell your kids what it truly means to be a citizen.
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