How to Talk to Your Pre-Schooler about the Presidential Election
With campaigning in full swing, evidence of the upcoming Presidential election is everywhere. There are incessant negative-campaign commercials on television. People are talking (some are arguing) about the candidates and their positions. News programs are dedicated to the issues involved. State and local organizations are holding events to inform voters. It’s hard for kids not to notice these things. So, what do you do when your preschooler starts asking questions? What follows is a sample dialogue that you can use with your preschooler.
Child: What’s a Presidential election?
Parent: We live in a democracy. Part of living in a democracy is that we get to choose who our leaders are. It’s kind of like where I work . . . you know I have a boss there, right?
Parent: Okay. Well, I didn’t get to choose my boss, but my boss gets to set the rules that tell how I should act when I’m at work. Remember when we talked about bosses?
Parent: Great! So, the President of the United States is kind of like the boss of our country. He (or she) gets to decided how we should act when we are in the United States. Does that make sense?
Parent: Because the United States is big and a lot of people live in the United States, there are a lot of things to deal with. Our President has a lot of tough stuff to deal with. There are times when there isn’t a clear right or wrong way to fix the issues. So, the Presidential candidates do something called campaigning; that means that they tell you how they will fix the problems if they are elected to be President. Then, in November, the grown-ups in the United States get to vote, which means that they get to say which Presidential candidate wants to fix things the way they (the voters) think is most likely to be the right fix. Whichever Presidential candidate gets the most votes wins and gets to be President.
Child: Ok, but they sound so mean. How come?
Parent: Yes, sometimes campaigning can be mean. Sometimes, Presidential candidates get so busy talking about how the other candidate’s fixes won’t work that they forget to talk much about what their own fixes are and why they will work. It’s kind of like when you and your brother fight. Instead of just trying to persuade each other by telling each other why you think you’re right, you two sometimes focus on why the other is wrong. That makes you both feel criticized and attacked. It would be so much better if you each criticized less and persuaded more. Presidential candidates have the same problem.
Child: But they’re grown-ups!
Parent: Yes, they are, but people of all ages can make poor choices about their behaviors.
Child: Ok. I saw a commercial, and it used a bunch of words I don’t know. What is a Democrat?
Parent: Good question! A little bit ago, I spoke about how there are tough problems that our President has to fix, and there are no clear right or wrong fixes to some of these. Over the years, people’s opinions on stuff like this have kind of grouped people together. People who want things to be fixed one way get together and form a group; people who want things fixed a different way get together to form a different group. We have lots of groups for stuff like this, but there are two big groups. They are called Republicans and Democrats. Mostly, Presidential candidates are either Republican or Democrat. That tells voters what fixes the candidates probably believes in.
Child: Oh. How come grown-ups get to choose their President but you didn’t get to choose your boss at work?
Parent: That’s because my job isn’t a democracy. Most people don’t get to choose their bosses at work. Around the world, most grown-ups don’t get to choose who runs their countries, either. We Americans are lucky that we do get to choose our President. Every time we vote, we get to have a say on what happens in our country.
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