How to Raise a Politically Active Teen

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How Parents Can Encourage Teens to Vote

Parents can get their kids involved in voting long before the kids turn 18. Here are six ways you can help your child become interested.

1. Vote yourself

If you take voting seriously, so will your teen. If you neglect to vote, then she is certainly less likely to see the importance of it herself.

According to Faull, your kids are following your actions from as early as preschool. This is the time to start engaging your child's intellect and explaining why you vote and why you're voting for a particular candidate. This will help your child naturally ease into the process so when he comes of age, he will be excited to vote too.

Eighteen-year-old Kathleen Jones, from Scarborough, Maine, is planning on voting for the first time this November. She says she is excited because voting is important in her family. "We're a pretty big political family. We talk about the candidates and issues. We also tease each other about who's voting for who," she says.

2. Make the issues relevant

Just like the rest of us, teens are effected by almost everything that goes on in the White House. But since it's not what their friends are talking about, they may not be aware. As a parent, you can show them how it's relevant.

Faull says the key to arousing your teen's interest is to not bombard them with information. "Give them sound bites of information rather than a long lecture," she says. "As you're watching TV, you might say, 'For heaven's sake, I don't agree with that!' or if you read something in the newspaper mention something like 'Now here's a person who has a valid opinion.'" Faull adds however, that you should not expect any affirmation from your teen -- but just know that they are indeed listening.

Your teen might find these issues especially intriguing:

  • Money. We think of it as the economy and the job market, but our children think about it as a new pair of shoes or gas for their car. Recent high school or college grads will be looking to earn a living on their own, but will there be a piece of the pie left? Guess who's going to have to deal with that 6 trillion dollar national debt we have on our backs?
  • Education. Does your teen's school have enough funding for the arts? Can the government provide them with enough financial aid so they can attend the private college they just got into? Or perhaps their school has been deemed a failing school and is about to close.
  • Environment. Chances are your children will be on the planet longer than you. Will they have clean air left to breathe?
  • Race. Can your teen get the job he wants without being discriminated against? Does she know what to do if she is?
  • Censorship. What does your teen have to say about the latest rap album to be banned, or radio "shock jocks," or provocative prime-time television content?
  • Gay Rights, Abortion, Illegal Drugs. Your teen may or may not be directly affected by these difficult topics, but there are certainly kids in his school who are. How would they handle these issues? More important, how do they want their government to handle these issues?

These are just some of the issues that are part of your teen's daily life and his future. Just casually discussing them can be a good way to start the conversation. Once your teen knows that his vote can change laws that affect him and his friends, then it's easier for you to convince him that his time in the polling booth is worth it. Find out what each candidate has to say about all these issues and more at vote-smart.org. Without taking sides, the site breaks down all the candidates and their stands (including local elections) to inform voters before they go to the polls.

 
Continued on page 3:  Your Political Adversary?

 

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