There are countless social media posts imploring you to vote tomorrow. I second that sentiment. I’d like to also strongly encourage you, as a citizen and as a parent, to talk with your teens about two things: why you’re voting, and how they can vote when the time comes.
Kids, including even eye-rolling teens, are watching us, and watching closely. Voting sets a great example. That said, if you can’t take them with you to the polls they aren’t watching you vote. That means they could be missing a few key points.
With all the activities, homework, and that pesky dinner thing that needs fixing every single night, some things fall through the cracks. I don’t necessarily think that this election is one of those things, given the enormous amount of press it’s garnered, but life happens and it may not occur to you to talk with your kid about how you felt when you cast your ballot.
Kids aren’t born knowing how to vote.
Things that are unknown are often feared on some level, right? Newness often means some nervousness, especially for young people. Helpful adults who take the time to explain the voting process to them, from registration and on through casting a ballot, can be a big help.
I’m pretty sure they’ll have the final step of the selfie with the “I voted” sticker down pat without your help, though.
If you have kids in high school who cannot vote, you may feel like it’s a long way off. And it is. And it will be here before we or they know it. So talk to them about registering when they turn 18. (Some states allow registration at age 17 depending on when they turn 18 – find a list of state voter registration ages here.) Our League of Women Voters does birthday boxes for new 18-year-olds and sometimes goes into high schools to register eligible seniors on lunch. Have your kids be on the lookout for such events.
Need an absentee ballot? Curious how voting early works in your area? Have another question? Just google it. Bonus: Teaching our kids that most information is just a few keystrokes away makes them more self-sufficient!
Consider taking your kids with you as a way to demystify the process. I know it’s more fun when they were little and cute, but they’ll remember more now that they’re older. My teen couldn’t join me when I voted early this time, but I did tell her how it worked for me when I voted early. I’m sure she wasn’t riveted by the conversation, but it’s better than nothing.
Speaking of demystifying, some states such as Ohio even let high schoolers age 17 or 18 work as election judges.
This Election Day, talk with kids not just about why you vote but also how. You will better equip them to do so on their own when they reach the age at which they can be voters, too. Knowledge is power, so teach kids how to vote.