RAISING YOUR CHILDREN
Teach your children about politics.
Teach your children about politics.

As a child, I had no idea how incredible our country was. Since then, three experiences have shaped my appreciation. These were brief visits to Mexico, Europe, and a year in Iraq with the military. It is not only the beauty of our land and determination of our people but a democratic form of government which makes America great. All have a voice, if they wish to use it, and for the most part, the political process goes smoothly.

I witnessed a different scene in Iraq. The hatred between the Sunni and Shia religious sects of Islam divided the people. Each was so dead set they were right they refused to give the other a chance to express their beliefs. This rift caused instability in the newly formed Iraqi government. My daily interactions with the Iraqi people gave me ample time to satisfy my curiosity regarding this matter. One day I asked an Iraqi man whether the president of Iraq should be a Shia or Sunni.

I asked what he thought would solve the country’s problems. He informed me he was neither Sunni nor Shia. He was Buddhist, which is an extremely rare minority there. This gave him somewhat of a Southwest Veterinary Clinic II, PLLC (580) 492-4404 Fax (580) 492-4410 outsider’s perspective. He said Iraq would only be successful under a completely neutral individual.
I almost walked away from the conversation because I thought the idea was so foreign that Iraqis would never entertain it. But it was the man’s political passion that kept me listening.

Although his viewpoint was unique, his passion was not. I soon learned all Iraqis are consumed with politics. Even children on the street could hold an intelligent conversation about current local and national Iraqi politics. They knew more about American politics than some Americans. It is part of their culture to talk politics. Generations of sectarian hatred run deep. It is important to them. That is why they have the passion they do. Each generation tries to avenge the hurts of the last.

Although America’s two major political parties are divided, they do not have the history of violence against each other like

I witnessed in Iraq. Republicans can work with Democrats and vice versa. The ideology differs, but a civility exists. This enables a fair election process and a peaceful transition of power every four to eight years. In fact, things are so peaceful that Americans have become apathetic. We know that even if the other party wins, the world will not end. Things will still be relatively normal. Yet, this apathy causes the average citizen to rely on others to make decisions for them in elections. Many who complain about elected officials do not vote. This should not be.

Parents must make politics a common household topic at home. Can your children name the two main parties? How about the vice president? Do they know how you vote and why? Many children grow up without a firm knowledge of the political process and principles which guide voting decisions. Often times, politics is just not part of a family’s culture. The tradition of not voting is passed on to the next generation. The attitude that one vote will not make a difference has hurt many elections. This myth keeps people from exercising their right to vote.

Famed basketball player Shaquille O’Neal recently admitted this election will be the first in which he has ever voted. This is the sad reality. Oftentimes, young adults will go 10 or 20 years without voting after becoming eligible at age 18. According to commonsensemedia.org, the following can be used as a guide to political discussions.

Decode political ads

Talk to your children about political ads they have seen. Discuss what is fact and what is opinion. Talk about what tactics opponents may use to skew the truth. Stress the importance of integrity in every aspect of our lives. Ask what the strategies candidates use say about their character and fitness to run for office.

Topic appropriateness

Limit discussion topics to those appropriate to your child’s age. Know your child; know their comprehension and sensitivity levels. Avoid obviously sensitive topics like abortion and LGBT issues until your children are old enough. However, if my children hear about something at school, they will usually come to me and I will explain it to them on their level.

Seek resources

Seek out kid-friendly political resources, such as Scholastic Kids Press, a website which has articles by children for children. Nightly News Kids Edition is a 15-minute newscast for kids that explains things in a way a child can understand. Christian parents and teachers will enjoy World Kids, a website with information and interactive learning activities.

Vote

The most important thing you can do to encourage your child to become a part of the political process is to take them with you to vote. This takes a lot of the mystery out of the voting process. It is memorable and exciting for a child to be part of something you are passionate about. Make it fun by posting a voting selfie with them!

Find out what you need to do to vote. Then, do it. Include your children. If you have never voted, learn right along with your children. Be honest about your apathy and get back on track. Enjoy your adventure and as always, go do the right thing!

More information on the voting process can be found at www.usa.gov.

Contact Cheyenne Belew at thechronicle@hillcom.net.

EDITOR’S NOTE: State law used to prohibit “ballot selfies” which included a visible copy of the voter’s ballot. A new law signed by Gov. Stitt abolished that prohibition. As of Nov. 1, it will be legal for an Oklahoman to post a photo of their ballot on social media, as long as the voter DOES NOT post the photo from “within the election enclosure.” The Chronicle urges voters to express themselves, but we suggest waiting until you’ve exited the polling place to post your voter selfies.