With mid-term elections just around the corner, temperatures are rising. And it has less to do with climate change than the sheer number of heated promises, dire warnings and shaded truths that candidates pass for facts. It’s not the greatest climate for introducing kids to the importance of voting. The good news is that there are plenty of online resources to help make that discussion meaningful and even fun.
What Does Voting Have to Do With Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)?
SEL and voting are related in a few ways.
One, voting is a way for you to say whether you support SEL in your local schools.
Two, part of Social-Emotional Learning is social awareness. Elections and voting heighten our social awareness around issues and priorities for our local, state, and national communities.
And three, voting and elections is a great way to engage with your kids, teach them a bit about the wider world, and learn what’s important to them.
Start by Boosting Your News Literary Skills
Kids are great sleuths. They can sniff out news from a variety of sources. Unfortunately, they may rely on websites that skewer the facts. This is particularly true during the election season. Parents need to boost their news literary skills so that they can explain the concept of bias to their kids.
If their kids are fortunate enough to have SEL curriculum in school, that job will be made easier.
Find websites that are dedicated to sharing tips about critically analyzing news reports. The News Literary Project’s is dedicated to helping readers determine the credibility of news so that they can make informed election choices. Their recent article about determining reliable voting information sources offers solid advice that can also be shared with kids.
Don’t Bombard Your Kids With Too Much Detail
It is easy to get into the weeds when explaining the election process to your kids. At the risk of having their eyes gloss over within seconds, start with talking about such basic concepts as the importance of voting. And then, this being the mid-term elections, segue into talking about how election outcomes at the local and state level can have powerful consequences even when the office of the presidency is not at stake.
Make it Fun!
Who says that learning about elections can’t be fun?
In fact, a quick visit to iCivics.org will quickly make doubters into believers. Created as a teacher-led resource, this site is also a tremendous gift to parents who want to educate their kids about all-things-government. Their Election Headquarters section contains guides created by kids for kids, such as their Student Power Elections that offers ways for kids not old enough to vote to also engage in the electoral process. Reinforce their news literacy skills by playing their NewsFeedDefender game. Other games focus on running a county and the election day voting process.
Making the election season a family affair may not guarantee your candidates win. But it will give your loved ones another way to stay civics-minded and connected.
Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.