Teaching kids about voting seems a bit presumptuous at first glance. If your child is non verbal or may never live independently then why would they need to vote? If someone has legal guardianship of them then the right to vote is taken away. Why take time to teach about this civil responsibility when they may never use it? One simple reason explains it all. You don’t know the future.
If you had asked me when Logan was 5 if he was going to be able to vote, I would have answered emphatically no. He didn’t talk, wasn’t potty trained or even able to be left alone for any period of time. He barely slept and we were only a year or two out from the doctor telling me to send him to a group home. I just wanted him to drink from a real cup instead of a sippy cup and use his fork instead of his hands. Voting was the last thing on my mind at that time, for him or me.
Fast forward 13 years. We are looking forward to seeing him live independently in the next few years. We grappled with whether to look into guardianship of him for a few years. The thought of him having to talk to police alone was enough to make me want to get it. As we researched, we kept coming back to his right to vote. He would be stripped of that right under guardianship laws. For him, it was a deal breaker. We had spent years teaching him the importance of being civically responsible to get out to vote. It would be hypocritical of us to take that responsibility away for him. If at any time I thought his safety deemed guardianship necessary then that would have trumped the right to vote. In the end, I determined that it was more for my own peace of mind than anything he needed. We ended up going with power of attorney for health reasons only. As for speaking to police, we have drilled it into him that his only answer to any question is “I want to speak to my attorney.”
Voting is one of the primary ways we take part in our democracy, but when it comes to explaining the process to children, it can be a little difficult. The weeks leading up to Election Day can provide the perfect opportunities for teaching your kids how our country works.
Whether you want to shed light on your values and beliefs or highlight current issues and events, I have 5 tips to help you discuss the aspects of voting with your little citizens.
5 Tips for Teaching Your Kids About Voting
Show the Concept of Voting
Remembering that our kids with autism think in pictures,illustration can better help get the point across. With this method in mind, even a preschooler can understand what it means to make a decision. Make it a fun learning time by setting up a mock poll in your home.
Use something your kids may be familiar with such as choosing a meal for dinner or picking a family movie to watch. Go all in and create ballots with 3-4 choices and even invite them to stand in front of the family and voice why they made a particular choice.
This not only teaches children the concept of nominating, but it can also help them begin to understand the meaning behind advocacy. Learning how to advocate for themselves is an crucial skill in Autismland.
Teach Your Kids that Their Voice Matters in Voting
By sharing your values and beliefs, you can show your kids how your voice matters in the voting process. Tie this into telling them who you are voting for and why. Go in as much depth as you feel necessary to help them understand that things that are important to you and your family can be greatly impacted depending on who is in office.
Teach Respectful Disagreement
Now, more than ever, it is important for kids to learn that with voting comes disagreement. However, they can also be shown that it is perfectly okay to disagree with others and still remain friends. Also involved in this learning opportunity is the skill of listening to others (and with respect).
Talk to your children about how you handle disagreements and disappointments in your home. Use examples they can relate to such as a fight with a sibling over a toy or game. Remind them of ways to manage their emotions and when an apology is necessary. All of these social skills are crucial to your Autism Action Plan.
Show Your Kids the Signs of Election Season
As Election Day grows closer and closer, towns will become covered in signs, campaign managers visiting homes, commercials, and even live debates. Pointing out these signs to your kids will help them get a visual of what voting looks like from the perspective of the person running for an office.
You can also take this time to teach them about the different positions that people are running for and the roles they play in the overall government design.
Get Your Kids Excited About Voting
One of the best ways to get your kids excited about voting is to involve them in as much of the process as possible. If you will be mailing in your ballot, be sure to show it to them so they can see what it looks like. If you are able to vote in person, take them with you if you can. Early voting is a great time to take them as it tends to be less crowded.
They’ll see how important voting is to you and most like follow suit as they grow up.
Mock Election Printable Pack
If you’re looking for an easy way to help teach the voting process to your kids, take a look at my Mock Election Printable Pack. It includes:
- Voter registration cards
- Vote For Me campaign posters
- Candidate sheet
- Election ballot
- I Voted! badges
We’ve made it simple and fun to help your children understand the basic voting process!