Dr. First on politics

Dr. Lewis First, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital

Parents have been campaigning for me to help them educate their children about the presidential election – and elections in general.

Talking about the issues around an election helps your children learn about these issues, think about them critically, and enables you to clear up misconceptions your children might have heard from friends on the playground.  A conversation about elections can also allay any fears of what your children may be reading or seeing in campaign ads.

So what do I suggest?  Don’t force a discussion on politics, but take your cues from your children.  Questions range from what the president does every day, for a younger child, to a more sophisticated question about national or international policy from an older child.

If your children ask you questions about what they are watching or hearing in an ad or on the news, listen to their questions and do your best to answer them or simply ask for their opinion about the issue in question and share yours.

Keep your discussion positive: this is a great opportunity to show your children how to share your differences of opinion with respect rather than with anger or negativity.  Focus on the positive attributes of the candidate you are favoring rather than the negative attributes of the opponent.

This is also a great opportunity for encouraging your children to get involved in a cause, especially if they are interested in issues and elections.  When children become involved in an issue, they can be empowered and feel they are making more of a contribution to the issues that concern them.  While voting for a candidate can make a difference, so can working on an issue your child would like to change.

This is also a good time to explain how voting works, how government works, and how every person’s opinion counts through voting.  Take your children with you on Election Day and have them join you in the voting booth so they can see how the democratic process works.  This enables your children to see how much you value the right to vote.  In turn, it is likely they will too.

Hopefully tips like this will get your vote when it comes to helping your children better understand what is happening during election season and on Election Day.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.   You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

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