Voting Day Reflections: How I’m Raising Engaged Kids


From the time my daughter was three and my son was an infant, they’ve regularly come with me to the polls on voting day. Whether it was a primary, municipal, statewide, or federal election, they’ve come along. They were even there when I voted for myself (see more on this below). Raising engaged kids is incredibly important to me. 

As a kid I knew voting was important

I don’t remember really talking about it much, but as a kid I understood that voting is critical. I have a memory of my mom saying that voting was an individual choice; that she and my dad didn’t talk about it or try to convince each other. And I don’t think they actually voted very differently, it was just that it was considered a private thing. For as active as they were in community building, the sense I got was that polite company didn’t talk politics.

Normalizing discussions about politics and voting

I’ve tried to normalize talking about politics in our house. Not necessarily capital “P” politics, but rather the role of voting and of being an engaged member of society. We talk about elections and the importance of using our voices — a lot. About how important it is to try to make choices that are good for our whole community and not just us. Something is certainly missing this year, but I’m reminded that the polling booth and voting day isn’t the only time to talk about these issues with our kids.

Serving in office helps me talk with kids about politics

My kids know a decent amount about local politics because of my role as a City Councilor. They’ve campaigned with me and come to meetings. And when I decided whether or not to run for a second term, I had them each weigh in. My then seven year old asked me “If you have to go to so many meetings, why would you run again?” I laughed, but I think she also understood my response. “Because I think it’s important to have someone who has young children at the table when decisions are made.” I wonder if I would be as comfortable talking with them about politics if I hadn’t taken the leap to run for office myself. Serving in office has given me the tools to talk with them more and to realize that they can handle these conversations quite well.

Whether we’re talking about City Council, the Statehouse, Congress, or the Presidency, we talk a lot about who gets to make the rules. We talk about why having different perspectives at the decision table helps bring up issues that others aren’t thinking about. We talk about how at City Council I have to listen and be willing to change my mind. About how I have to try to combine my knowledge and views with the others I serve with on Council if we want to try to make progress.

Kids books boil complex issues to their core

Talking with kids about politics can start with reading. We’ve also made a concerted effort to have kids books on our shelves that touch on these issues. I’ve found them useful to boil down what feels like really complex adult issues into their core components. I’ve gathered up some of my favorites here, but there are many other great books about empathy and other integral people skills — plus this one from Publisher’s Weekly

Voting day means liberty and justice for all

I’ve realized that even a five year old can understand the importance of listening and being kind. That involving them in voting and local politics from an early age helps normalize these activities. That explaining to them the things I’m trying to weigh helps me boil down my views too. Talking with the kids has also helped me realize that what feels like uncomfortable topics are quite simple after all. I’m reminded that voting is just one part of ensuring that we have “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people” “with liberty and justice for all.”

So this year instead of going together to the voting booth on voting day (Covid!), we’ll talk about the tradition we are missing. We’ll talk about how voting has changed over the years here in America. We’ll talk about who has been allowed to vote and who has been blocked from it. And while I won’t really know if our discussions are sinking in for the kids, I’ll know that they’re sinking in for me and I’m doing all I can in raising engaged kids.