There are two major preoccupations with Canadians today. There is the hockey series and the upcoming federal election. I have chosen to talk about the election and why it should matter to anyone who cares about families. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am dreaming of the Stanley Cup returning to Canada and more specifically to the Canucks. But, the election is a more important and universal parenting issue. No matter where you are when you’re reading this, it will be important the next time you have an election campaign in your region.
Teaching Kids about Democracy
To no-one’s surprise we have a federal election this May. In BC there are also municipal elections coming up in the Fall, the HST referendum and possibly a provincial vote. And what, you wonder, has that to do with parenting? It matters because how we vote and who we elect can have a profound impact on our society and meeting the needs of children and families. Pay attention. What are your concerns? Who will best address them? Much as it sounds hokey, the truth is that every vote counts and every election helps determine the world we will live in and leave to our children and grandchildren. You may choose to become informed so that you can vote intelligently. You may choose to get involved with the campaign of your preferred candidate. You may choose to work on Election Day. Whatever your choice, let the kids know what is happening. Our children learn by watching us. When we get involved in the electoral process and let them see our involvement they grow up knowing that they have a civic duty to pay attention, to vote, to work on a campaign and possibly to eventually run for office. Let’s say you decide to put some time in on a campaign. You’re going to deliver lawn signs to supporters. Your 12-year-old would be a perfect partner for the task. He can help your find addresses and will love placing the signs on the lawn. You’re going to deliver leaflets in the riding. Take your eight-year-old along for the walk and talk to her about what you’re doing and why. On Election Day make sure your children know that you are going to vote. If possible, bring them along to the polling place. This is also a great time to open the conversation about your political beliefs. Use language the kids will understand and choose topics they care about. All school-aged children care about education and today they are all aware of the environment. Show them the campaign brochures that come into the house. Talk about them. Help them learn how to distinguish fact from political spin. I’m not talking about turning every evening into a civics lecture, but a casual awareness and mention can lead to some meaningful conversation. If your children are teens, be prepared for a political argument. So be clear on your stand before you start this process. The average teen will love to take you on. After all, they take you on about everything else, why not politics? And if you are a strong supporter of one party, odds are your teen will argue vociferously for the opposition. Just listen, be respectful, state your point of view and don’t panic. A lot of this argument is simply for the sake of debate. I recall during one election a mother at one of my presentations was beside herself. She and her husband had been long-time supporters of the NDP. Their children knew that and had watched them work for the party. And now, here was their outspoken 15 year-old sounding off about the Conservatives. Oh, he had facts and figures and the passion that only a committed teen can exhibit. When I saw this mother the following week she was grinning. She told me that she had learned that her son had quietly been working for the NDP candidate. So all the talk was just that, talk. Mind you, our kids will not always choose our political path. I bet not all of you vote as your parents did. Our job is to introduce our children to the path of democracy. Teach them to pay attention and vote, but vote intelligently. Then when they are adults and making the decisions that will impact us when we’re seniors, we are certain they are making them responsibly.
A Few Things Happening with Parenting Today There are a few changes coming to my website over the next few months. Stay tuned. There is a big book sale coming soon. All books and CDs will be selling at half price. Right now these prices apply if you are in any audience when I am speaking. Soon, they will also be on the website. For those who plan way ahead I will be in Washington state and Oregon in June 2011 and in Ontario and New England in late September and early October of 2011. Contact me and let me know whether you would like a professional development event or a parenting workshop. I’d love to be able to take advantage of the fact that I am in your town and can offer you quality parenting information. You don’t need to wait until I am on your doorstep. If you have an upcoming conference, a professional development event or are planning supportive programs for the parents in your workplace, Kathy is the person to call. I also want to again mention the game Yakety Yak. Get it now to bring to the cottage, to play on spring and summer evenings. You will be amazed at the conversations that will develop from this activity.
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