Driving this morning with my 9-year-old and half-listening to the BBC news on the radio yielded a nice, teachable moment. They advertised their round-the-clock election coverage of the U.S. presidential race. It sounded momentous and a little urgent. I took their tone for granted, but I'm glad my daughter, Sophia, didn't. Here's how the conversation followed:
Sophia: "Mommy, why would the BBC care about the U.S. election? It's not their country."
Me: "That's such a good observation. It's our election, but the whole world is watching."
Me: "The United States is the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world. Did you know that?"
Sophia: (Tentatively) "I think so."
Me: "So, decisions the President makes about how much money to spend, where to buy stuff, if they will start or end a war, how they will help other countries, if they let in immigrants from other countries, all affect people around the world very much." Then, as I thought more about it, the list, aimed at the 9-year-old's understanding, got longer, and I added: "They make decisions about spending and organizing healthcare and education; building or repairing roads, tunnels, bridges, airports. The building supplies can come from the U.S. or another country. The education and healthcare will help decide if companies want to have offices here or somewhere else. This will make a difference on how many jobs there will be, and how good the jobs will be." Then, before I got into the topic of appointing judges, we had arrived.
As Sophia slid open the minivan door, she got in the last word: "I hope whoever's President won't start new wars." She scampered into school, and I was left to utter to myself, "Me too..."
To learn more on talking about the election with children, see "11 Ways to Get Your Kids Excited About the Election" from Redbook.com.
How do you talk about the election with kids and explain why the world cares so much about the U.S. election?