Politics has a bad rap, and in some cases, for a good reason. The basic concept of discussing the best approach for governing and talking through our differences is terrific. Unfortunately, during election season, it’s easy to focus only on the winners and losers of each race. Often those running for office don’t behave as well as we’d like or encourage our children to conduct themselves. While you may agree or disagree with people’s stances on issues, it’s critical to discuss with your children the importance of democracy and the process. Furthermore, election season is also when kids are hearing and seeing advertisements and social media updates about the candidates, some of which are true and some of which contain misleading messages.

Don’t think kids care? A KidsHealth.org survey found that “75 percent of kids and 79 percent of teens answered ‘yes’ when asked whether they thought that the outcome of an election would change their lives.”

But how do you talk to your kids about politics and elections? Here a few tips:

  • Approach it differently based on your children’s ages. With younger children, you can talk about bullying. They may see name-calling on TV, but we should teach our children to find ways of respectfully disagreeing. As your kids grow older, they can learn more about the issues, discuss whether they agree or disagree, and talk about the election process and how it works.
  • Be mindful of their social media. If your kids are in high school, they are on social media hearing a slew of messages. Discuss with them the role of social media and the credibility of what they read.
  • Suggest they get involved. If your child feels passionate about a particular issue, encourage him or her to get involved in groups to support it.
  • Vote together. While your kids can’t vote yet, bring them along to the polls if you can. That way they learn first hand about the process.
  • Keep it positive and reassuring. Kids often pick up on our worries. Try to stay positive, even if you’re worried about the economy, losing a job, or losing the house.
  • Model good behavior. Instead of blaming the negative about the other candidate, talk about the positives of the people you like and why you agree. Kids are learning every minute, and by teaching them to discuss and disagree respectfully, we can all work toward making a functional democracy.

Check out these age-appropriate ways to discuss politics.