My earliest memory of any president is of Richard Nixon sitting at a microphone with the seal of the United States behind him. My dad was glued to the TV and I just didn't get it, but then again I don't think the political cycle was anything like it is now.
Seems like Wisconsin's been in campaign season mode for the greater part of GG's lifetime. The daily news regularly chrips out terms like primaries, polling, and debates. Sandwiched in between are my favorites: political ads...
[cue menacing music] Candidate X is The Boogeyman who kicks puppies. Candidate Y loves puppies. Vote for Candidate Y if you want to save the puppies. [Fade to Candidate Y standing patriotically as an American flag billows in the background] I am Candidate Y, and I approve of this messge.
[cue menacing music] Candidate Y is The Monster who kicks kittens. Candidate X loves kittens. Vote for Candidate X if you want to save the kittens. [Fade to Candidate X standing patriotically as an American flag billows in the background] I am Candidate X, and I approve of this message.
Tiresome. Repititious. And confusing...especially to a nine-year-old -- or any kid or adult, for that matter.
In the absence of School House Rock
, explaining the electoral process - of which campaign ads are now an integral part -- can put parents in the middle of a hybrid crash course on media literacy, social studies and the use of hyperbole. To help GG make sense of it all, we explain in an age-appropriate, unbiased
way that each person wants everyone to believe the worst about the other person and the best about themselves. GG's caught on fairly quickly and has even chimed in when some of the commercials air: "Oh yeah..so they show the angry looking gramma" or "Right...so they show the kids looking like they're sad." So, sure we've passed our cynicism onto her, but at least she's aware that no one is completely telling the truth on these mini infomercials.
Crazy as it sounds, we never thought to use the internet to find resources to spell everything out for her in a much clearer way than we did, but the resources are there. Use 'em, and you'll be better equipped to answer questions like "So ALL of these guys want to be the president?" or "What is a RECALL?"
But of course, even the best website can't help with some of the comments that your kids will throw at you like this one. GG asked this question after overhearing a snippet of one of the debates:
"Why would they talk to each other like that?"
Those are the times when parents can admit there are some things that even moms and dads just don't know.
Here are a few user-friendly websites that you can use along with your kids or let them search and surf independently.
From PBS: A Parent's Guide to Talking About the Presidential Election
From Washington, D.C.: Ben's Guide to Government
A website that explains our government and the way it works in an age appropriate way for kids. Pages are specialized in the following age ranges: K-2; 3-5; 6-8; 9-12; and another section for Parents and Teachers.
From Time Magazine: Time for Kids
Worldwide and nationwide events, including entertainment for kids.