Voting on (or before!) Election Day—whether you’re voting for the
next President of the United States or for your local city
councilperson—is obviously incredibly important, and something you can
and should share with your children.
Some parents think voting is way over kids’ heads—that politics has
nothing to do with their world and something they will be bored by,
but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Voting is about using
your voice to stand up for what you believe in. It's an amazing
opportunity to reinforce the idea that your girl's thoughts and
opinions matter. Plus, the candidates who are voted into office will
be shaping your girl’s future—from her educational options today to
her financial realities as she becomes an adult.
Whether you're completing a mail-in ballot, voting early, or showing
up to the polls on Election Day, find a way to involve your kids.
Follow these easy suggestions to help your girl become an excited,
engaged citizen—even before she’s old enough to cast her own ballot!
Make it personal
Before you head to the polls or complete your ballot at home,
talk to your girl about the candidates and how whoever is voted into
office will have an effect on the things she cares about most.
- Does she love science and nature? Help her learn
about the candidates’ feelings on science funding and the
- Has she been concerned
about COVID-19? Discuss each candidate's approach to the
- If she’s into drama and dance, talk
about how the candidates have a say in our national arts funding
and see if either one has made statements about that.
- Is she really into animals? You can look up their
stances on animal welfare.
- Does your girl dream of
having her own business someday? Check out the
candidate’s plans to support small business owners and giving
everyday families a chance at success.
- Similarly, if
she started a recycling club at school, discuss how the
candidates feel about different environmental issues and how
they say they’d address them if given the chance.
You get the idea. The kinds of decisions our candidates make
affect all of us. Your girl doesn’t have to know anything about
foreign affairs or what many see as "politics" to be
personally invested in an election and its candidates.
Let her know why voting is special
Having a say in how your government is run is an incredibly
powerful thing and an opportunity none of us should waste. Here in
the United States, every law-abiding citizen over the age of 18 has
the right to vote—but that isn’t the case in all countries, and it
wasn’t even the case here until pretty recently. Talk to your
daughter about the fact that when our country was founded, only
landowners (in other words: mainly rich, white men) could vote. No
women could vote until 1920, and even then, it was incredibly
difficult if not impossible for many African American, Latina, Asian
American, and Native American women to vote until the 1960s.
That means “group decisions” about issues that
affected all the people in the country were being made
without the whole group being involved. It’s like if your girl’s
teacher was deciding what game all the children would play at
recess, but only let the four tallest boys in the class vote. Even
the youngest of children can see how that’s not fair, and why
everyone should have their say.
Prep her for the polls
Walk her through what voting is really like. Let her know
that millions of people all around the country are voting. If you're
voting from home, talk to her about the reasons why that is an
important option and why some people need different ways to vote. If
you're heading to the polls, let her know there might be a lot of
people in line and that you may have to wait a while to take your
turn. Ask her to think about a book or quiet toy she’d like to bring
with her so she doesn’t get bored! And make sure she knows that she
can’t tell other people in line who they should or should not vote
for—despite how excited she might be about her candidate. That’s
considered “electioneering,” (in other words, trying to persuade
people to vote for a certain candidate) which is not allowed within
100 feet of a polling place.
Take her with you
If you're voting in person on the
big day and feel safe doing so, go ahead and take your girl with you
to vote. Children are allowed to join their parents at the polls in
all 50 states as well as in Washington, D.C., but some states have
certain rules about how many children are permitted, so it’s a good
idea to call your local election commission ahead of time if you’re
planning on bringing more than one or two children. Make sure your
kids know to remain masked and to keep their distance from other
voters. When you get to your confidential voting booth, fill out the
ballot yourself, then have your daughter either pull the lever, push
the button, or help feed your ballot into the machine (however it’s
done in your area!). Playing an active role in your vote will make a
more lasting impression on her and help her feel more like an active
participant in the election.
Follow up for her future
Don’t let the teaching moment end at the polling booth. Make
sure to let your girl know how the election turned out. Tell her how
many people in your area showed up to vote, and how many people in
your state—she’ll love knowing she was a part of something so big
and important, especially if there weren’t many people at the polls
when you showed up or if you voted from home. If your favorite
candidate won, sit down with her and write a card of congratulations
to the winner. If your favorite candidate lost, talk to her about
how voting is important anyway, because the government needs to know
that there are many different opinions in our country. Then have
your daughter write a letter to her candidate telling them how much
she believes in them and that she still supports their ideas—and
which ones in particular, even if they didn’t win the election. The
point is to let your girl know that her voice counts even if she’s
not old enough to vote.