Biographies help kids “recognize and give thanks for God’s gracious providence in bringing into the existence and preserving the United States, as well as the tremendous sacrifices of the heroes who fought to defend our liberties over the years,” adds Patterson.

Talk about the candidates and issues. Get a sample ballot and discuss those running for office with your kids. With older teens, delve more deeply into the issues and ask their opinions on who’s running. “I encourage parents to watch political debates with teens,” says Muffett. “A lot of kids don’t ever get engaged by adults about politics.”

Go campaigning. Older teens can assist political campaigns by handing out literature, manning phones and knocking on doors. “It helps engage them in a whole different world they didn’t know existed,” says Muffett.

Participate in elections. Many schools have elections for student body government, and many also hold mock elections. “Any sort of election-related activity shows them that this is a democratic process and how it works,” says Willis. 

Register to vote. For teens eligible to vote, parents can help them fill out voter registration cards. For those going off to college, walk the student through the process to vote absentee. 

Take them to the polls. Children often find the voting process fascinating. Let them look over your shoulder as you cast your ballot. Nothing beats that first-hand experience.

Lead by example. Of course, all this would be meaningless if we as parents ignore the election process. Make an effort to vote in all elections you can—from local to state to federal. Get involved in the political process where you can, by either volunteering for campaigns or educating yourself about the candidates and issues.

Voting Counts

By engaging kids of all ages in the election process, we are helping to shape the next generation of voters. “Elections are the vehicle through which we are able to influence the laws and policies enacted by our government,” reminds Patterson. 

Above all, don’t let any apathy to voting creep into your home. While we’re sometimes convinced that one vote doesn’t make a difference, there are plenty of real-world examples that show us differently. “Whenever you are tempted to think that your one vote doesn’t count, think of some of the very close elections over the course of history that have had momentous outcomes,” says Patterson.

Muffett recounts one such a story. A friend running for the Michigan state House of Representatives lost by one vote—the result of several of the candidate’s relatives not voting. “One raindrop doesn’t matter until you feel all the raindrops together,” he says. “If you don’t participate, you have no chance to make a difference.”

That’s something we need to instill in our children from the beginning—that because we live in America, we have a chance to make a difference every time we go to the polls.

Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ through the Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coach Institute. She’s also a freelance writer and editor. Sarah lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children, who love to accompany her to the polls. Visit her at www.sarahhamaker.com.

Publication date: October 30, 2012