We’ve always taken our children with us when we go to vote. But when my daughter was three, I noticed that she was especially excited about going. I thought her excitement was a little odd, considering that voting meant standing in line and waiting—two of her least-favorite activities. But a little election-day excitement is certainly not a bad thing, and it made the people working at the polling place smile. What really confused me, though, was that when we got ready to leave after casting our vote, she burst into tears.
“What’s the matter?” I asked her.
“We didn’t get to see the boat!” she wailed. “Where was the boat?”
Then it clicked. When we talked about going to vote, she thought we were saying boat because she had no idea what a vote was. No wonder she was disappointed!
Elections and the importance of voting can be confusing concepts for young children to understand. Here are a few tips to help you teach your young children about good citizenship.
Show Your Children That Voting Is Important
Your children may be too young to cast a ballot, but as a homeschooler, you have a great opportunity to model good citizenship every election day. Demonstrate to your children that voting is an important part of citizenship by going out to vote yourself. Take your children along with you so that they can be a part of the experience too.
To help young children understand what voting is and why it’s important, you might want to stage an election at home. Choose a topic that is important to young children (such as “What should we have for lunch on Friday?” or “What game should we play during family time?”), and have family members vote on it. Create a ballot box from an old shoebox, and make ballots with only two choices (you may want to include pictures for nonreaders). And be prepared to act based on the winning choice! This is a great time to explain some election terms they may have heard during a campaign.
Talk About the Importance of Choosing Good Leaders
During the weeks leading up to an election, my mailbox is usually stuffed with political mailers. When I open my front door, a political flier often falls out. There are political advertisements on television, radio, and the internet—I can’t get away from them, and neither can my kids. They might be too young to understand what the president does or what the difference is between a Democrat and a Republican, but after seeing a political ad, they do sometimes ask me, “Is he (or she) good?”
When my children ask me about specific candidates, it gives me a good opportunity to talk with them about the kind of character we want to see in our leaders. I explain that a leader is ideally someone who is righteous, just, and humble. But every political candidate, just like all the rest of us, is flawed by sin. Despite that, we have the responsibility to vote for a person we think will govern wisely in accordance with Scripture.
Pray About the Election
Finally, be sure to include the election and the candidates when you pray together as a family (1 Timothy 2:1–2). Doing so will help show your children that God ultimately decides who our leaders will be. In His hands, we can trust His good plan for our nation.