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Bring the Presidential Campaign Home

8 tips for talking to your child about the election

March 5 , 2008
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Watch election news together with your kids.
Watch election news together with your kids.

Thanks to this year's exciting (some might say neverending) primary season, the presidential campaign is constantly in the news. How much do kids want and need to know about the upcoming election? Here's some advice from the editors of Scholastic News.

  1. Consider your child's age and sensitivity. If your child is 8 years old or younger, wait for her to ask questions (rather than initiating conversations) about the news. Respond honestly, but without a lot of detail. At this age, too many details can lead to confusion or unnecessary worry.

    If your child is in upper elementary school (grades 3 to 5), take your cues from him about what to talk about and to what length. Kids this age can comprehend what's going on and will often seek out additional facts and background information. 

    Middle school and high school students have the intellectual ability to participate in a conversation about current events. Young adults might also be curious to know what your views are in comparison to their own. But don't feel you must impose such discussions on your child — if you bring up the subject and she tunes you out, don't press. 

  2. Watch together. Children of all ages have instant access to information and images, so it's up to you to help make sense of it all.  If possible, watch TV news and read newspapers, Web sites, and magazines with your children so you can answer questions, address fears, and provide context. 

  3. Ask questions. When talking about the election and other current events, ask your child what his impressions are, what he is curious about, or what he might be afraid of.  Incorporate his concerns, questions and opinions into your discussions. 

  4. Seek out sources for news created specially for kids. You are not required to have all of the answers or know all of the background on a specific incident. At sites like Scholastic News, you can find age-appropriate information, articles and activities on current events topics that are of interest to children.

  5. Make the school to home connection. Talk to your child's teacher to find out what they are discussing in class. This way you can be prepared to answer questions that your child might have and you can continue the dialogue at home. It's also important to let your child's teacher know what concerns or sensitivities your child has expressed, as well as any family situations that might make a topic more personal (like a family member in the armed forces, for example). 

  6. Support your child's desire to learn more. Encourage further study by checking out books from the library, watching documentaries, or attending museum exhibits.

  7. Help her get involved. Kids can share their opinions in polls, or raise money for their favorite candidates. Tweens and teens can support their favorite causes by joining local groups and volunteering their time. 

  8. Take a break. Depending upon your child's age and temperament, monitor or even limit TV viewing, Internet access, and reading materials so he doesn't become overwhelmed.  This is especially true for preschoolers and early elementary-age kids — and sometimes even parents!

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