Helping children cope with curiosity about elections
As parents, we all want our children to grow up to be responsible citizens of the country, actively participating in the growth of the nation. We can often resort to over protecting them from various ideologies instead of educating them in a way that helps them differentiate between the positive and the negative.
They already know ‘elections’
Whether you like it or not, children have overheard and picked up a lot of information from the conversations happening around them. Be it small discussions with friends, learning about parliament in the classroom or listening to your conversation at the lunch table, kids ‘know’ a lot more than you realise.
Most often than not, kids are also aware of many political issues because of the news doing its rounds on the television and through social media. Hence, instead of picking up bits and pieces of information from elsewhere, it is good to engage kids in useful topics and stories, age appropriately of course. In this way, they will learn how to discern and differentiate between fact and fiction.
Ease fears through awareness
There is much activity that comes along with every election. People organise rallies, protests and the media covers all the excitement and confusion 24/7. We all know that these topics often induce a feeling of fear and bewilderment in kids who may not be so comfortable with a politically charged environment.
Younger children may get worried as they have a short attention span and often pick up only the alarming bits of information from a conversation. There are many things they do not know and when they are unable to understand the matter, it might create unnecessary distress in their minds. Telling them about the situation creates context and it will help them understand some important issues of today without being fearful or anxious.
Present views respectfully
A lot of time we watch election candidates engaging in heated debates where they choose poor communication methods when disagreeing with each other. Such instances can be used as opportunities to explain to kids about respecting the views of others and teaching them how to express their discontent in the right way.
Kids need to understand that we are bound to disagree with each other on certain issues but what matters the most is the way we choose to disagree. In this way, kids will learn how to have an opinion and at the same time respect the view of others.
A sense of social responsibility
Teaching them about politics doesn’t mean you should indoctrinate your kids, it is about inculcating a sense of responsibility in them. While they learn concepts like justice and equality in the classroom, answering their questions about the importance of voting can help them become socially responsible citizens in future.
Young children might find it difficult to understand the complexity of the political system but they do understand the basic concepts of fairness or justice, which form an important part of democracy.
You can teach the children little facts about the role of a parliamentarian or prime minister. Voting can also be made easy and fun to understand by creating opportunities for children to learn the mechanism; they can vote for the location of the next family holiday or what game to play on game night.
With older children, who understand about the government and different political parties, you can teach them about democracy, history of the nation and patriotism.
Fun activities with kids
Young children mostly learn through imitation. Hence, you can take them with you when you go to the polls (just not inside the voting booth!) or for a visit to historical sites and museums where learning can be fun. Get involved in issues which affect the lives of others such as conservation of natural resources, improving education for the less privileged or other volunteering activities that you are interested in.
Though these things do not relate directly to politics or voting, children learn a lot about how small acts can make a big difference in the lives of others. In older children, the learning deepens as they read stories and explore the history of their nation. Eventually, they will also participate in debates or discussions at school and develop an interest in volunteering for various activities and causes.
Learning about politics or history doesn’t have to be dull or inflict fear. Engaging your child in conversations that are interesting and thoughtful, and visits to historical sites and museums, will make them aware of their social responsibility as citizens of the country and they will eventually understand the different facets of politics.
Why should family time be on your priority list?
You love your family and you spend so much time and effort in giving them the best of every material thing that you can afford. You count every minute as precious and make investments to secure the financial future of your family. But you still find that sometimes the family may not be as close or happy and that makes you think, what have I have missed?
Perhaps, you missed the most important thing that your family needs, your time. Spending time with your loved ones is the best investment you can ever make. We’ve heard it a hundred times before – quality trumps quantity every time.
It creates memories to cherish forever
How clearly do you remember the first bicycle that dad bought you or perhaps it was a video game? But the most fun was the time spent with him learning to ride the bike or shooting down demons in some fantasy universe. Be it the memories of helping your mother bake goodies for Christmas or your grandma telling you bedtime stories, every memory of the time you spent with your loved ones is something you cherish. Spending time with family creates memories for both parents as well as children, and these are the very memories that influence and inform choices as children grow into adults.
Makes your children feel loved
It’s a tough world to grow up in. Hence, sometimes we get so anxious in raising successful children that we often forget the real meaning of spending quality time with them. Spending time with children doesn’t include rushing them to school, followed by coaching classes, extracurricular activities and homework supervision. It means being fully engaged with your child in any activity that makes him feel loved and wanted. When children feel loved and valued by parents, they feel positive about themselves and grow up to be confident individuals.
Helps in the all-round development of children
Research indicates that early parent-child interactions contribute positively to the brain development of the child. Ninety percent development of a child’s brain takes place during the first three years. Hence, when parents engage in small activities with their toddlers like peek-a-boo, playing catch, puzzles and filling a bucket with toys, they are helping their child to learn and develop.
Develops a sense of security in the child
What a child at any age seeks the most is a sense of security. Family time assures your child of that security. You don’t need to wait to find time for luxurious activities to make it meaningful for your children. Take a short walk to the shops, help your child build a lego spaceship, or give tips to your son while playing a backyard game of football with him. Children tend to share more about their day while they are enjoying an activity with mum and dad.
A natural way of spending time with your family is to have dinner together. The US National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) conducted a study and found that teenagers who do not have frequent family dinners are “twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol, and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.” Teenagers usually like to spend more time with their friends. So, family mealtime can be a natural way to connect with them without making them feel interrogated. You can use this time to talk, share your own childhood stories, connect with them, observe any changes in their behaviour and spot the cause of any potential issues. Do not worry if you have a packed schedule and cannot be present regularly for family dinners. Aim for 2 to 3 family dinners a week. Also, try to engage the entire family from adults to children in menu preparation, grocery shopping and cooking on a weekend.
Go for outings
If you are an adventurous parent, then taking your family on excursions or short holidays is not only a good way to refresh yourself but also a good time to strengthen your family bond. Studies reveal that families that enjoy activities together have strong emotional ties and greater ability to overcome adverse situations as a family. Spending time with the family and understanding each other also helps in the development of the child’s emotional intelligence. Your child is likely to develop a positive behaviour and learn social skills by regularly interacting with parents and siblings.
Invite parents home
Not only your children but even your parents and spouse need your time. If your parents stay with you, having meals together can be a fun time for sharing family anecdotes and other valuable lessons that inculcate a sense of belonging with the family. Family members of all ages tend to eat better if they have meals together. It is also a good time to try new food. Children are more likely to enjoy the food that parents like to eat.
If your parents stay away, invite them home on weekends or visit them. Loneliness is also a reason for their ill health or sickness. Spending quality time with parents is very important for their mental and emotional well-being as well. Take your children with you to visit your parents. Grandparents love to share stories and play with their grandchildren. The lessons passed on by grandparents are the ones children remember forever. They also learn to live a balanced life and value their parents when they see you doing the same to your parents.
Last but not least, make time for your spouse and keep working on the marriage. Appreciate each other and take the time to discuss your day. A good understanding between a husband and wife is the foundation of a strong family. Always remember, happy parents raise children who grow up to be happy adults.