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Whether you are Team Hillary or Team Trump, talking to your kids about politics and democracy can be beneficial. Getting them interested in the political process early on can make a difference down the road.

Share Your Opinion

Parents are often teaching their children about politics whether they realize it or not, points out Dr. Rosalyn Cooperman, an associate professor with the Department of Political Science at the University of Mary Washington.

“They do it with their behavior by taking the time to vote, or by supporting a particular candidate or party,” she says. “They are also teaching them about politics by discussing the events of the day and even during their everyday conversations. Politics is a part of their daily lives and activities whether they are consciously aware of it or not.”

How active parents are in politics may determine whether their children will follow suit, as well as if they will end up sharing their parents’ political views.

“It varies depending on how strong a parent’s affiliation is with a party, or whether or not parents are split parties,” says Cooperman.

Let Them Form Their Own Opinion

While Cooperman discourages parents from forcing their children to believe a certain way just because they do, moms and dads can express why they feel the way they do and help support their children in making their own decisions as they age and issues become more important and relevant to them.

“Parents can offer up an opportunity to talk thoughtfully about the political system, and what they like and don’t like about it,” Cooperman suggests. “You want to talk about what values you have for your family, the things that are important to you. Find an opportunity to share what is important to you and why. You can teach them to think, and they may absorb your values, but you can’t have them believe what you believe just ‘because I told you so.’”

Get Them Involved

Political discussions can begin at any age, and a child’s maturity level should be taken into consideration. Most children begin to be exposed to politics and democracy in elementary school when they first start learning about the government and how it operates. Some schools even hold mock elections.

Whether it’s at the county, state or federal level, kids should be involved, even if it’s by simply having mom or dad taking their children with them to vote on Election Day.

“It’s important for kids to learn about democracy because someday they will be making decisions when we can’t, they may someday hold an office, they will vote and make their voices heard, and they will be voting for the candidates who will make the choices on our behalf,” Cooperman says.

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