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Lifestyles

January 13, 2008

PARENT POLITICS: Election offers teachable moments for mom and dad

Georgetown’s Cheri Fluhr says she’s more aware of political issues and candidates’ platforms this election year than maybe ever before. She has her 13-year-old daughter Kendal to thank for that.

“When she got up this morning, the first thing she wanted to know was who won the New Hampshire primary,” Fluhr said of the Highland Hills eighth-grader. “Her interest has made me pay more attention because I know she has questions. I turn on the six o’clock news more now so we can both keep up on issues.

“Over the past few months we’ve talked about a lot of things — why we have primaries, low voter turnouts, the importance of knowing about each of the candidates and what they believe,” Fluhr said. The fact that Kendal could very likely see the first woman or African-American president elected has piqued the girl’s interest in the ‘08 election as well, and led to a mom-daughter discussion about womens’ fight for voting rights.

Whatever the topic, Fluhr said, she aims to be open with her daughter, even about the difficult topics like abortion or gay marriage. “I always try to tell her that ‘this is my point of view, you may have another opinion.’ I want her to understand that people can have different views, that we can agree to disagree.”

Taking an open-minded approach is one of the most important moves a parent can make when discussing politics with their children, a guidebook by the U.S. Department of Education advises. “As children grow older, they develop opinions of their own. If you bombard them with your opinions, you may become disappointed when they have contrary opinions. Educate them on the political process, and be accepting of their views.

Herb London, president of Hudson Institute, a world-renowned think-tank in Washington, D.C. and a formal New York gubernatorial candidate, recommends parents take their children with them to the voting booth to let them see how actual voting takes place. Encouraging children to read about candidates in the newspaper and organizing and participating in mock elections at school are other “desirable methods to encourage children to get involved and understand the right and privilege to vote,” he said.

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