Election 2020: Turn Your Teens into Smart Voters

Here are 7 Ways to Get the Conversation Started

1. Start talking about issues that are important to them.

Polls show that the causes they are most concerned about are gun control, the environment and race relations. Ask questions about these topics to find out their thoughts. Listen. Respond. Don’t argue. Yes, it’s challenging to get teens and young adults to talk at all sometimes. So be low key and interested but not opinionated.

2. Find ways that you, as a household, can make a difference in these areas.

The easiest way is probably around the environment – recycling, making do with what you have versus buying everything new, refurbishing, walking and riding bikes, growing some of your own food.

3. Watch TV and movies that will spark conversations.

For example, “The Hate You Give,” “Bombshell,” “Parasite,” “Gandhi,” “Schindler’s List,” “Hotel Rwanda,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “The Patriot,” “Hidden Figures,” “The Help,” “Dark Waters,” “Invictus,” “Lincoln,” “Twelve Years a Slave,” “Norma Rae,” “All the President’s Men,” “The Imitation Game,” and “The Big Short,” are a few examples of powerful films that will touch emotions and hearts and provide plenty of fodder for discussion.

4. Watch and read the news yourself.

Talk about it. Getting people to suddenly watch debates or read about politics is a reach. But introducing topics into conversation can spark an interest and get young people thinking.

5. Instead of making conversations abstract, bring it down to the level of daily life.

How would their prospects for college change if tuition was free? Have they thought about getting health care insurance once they are no longer your dependent? Do they know how much it costs? How much does it actually cost to support yourself today? How much are taxes, and what do they pay for?

6. When elections come about, talk about the candidates and what they stand for.

When it comes to “down ballot” candidates, this may be challenging – sometimes there isn’t much information available. It took me an hour to find information on candidates running for judicial appointments in the 2018 election. Discuss why these non-Presidential positions are important – what do judges do and how can they influence your life?

7. And finally, when voting day comes, MAKE IT A  BIG DEAL.

It’s as important of a milestone as a First Communion, a Bar Mitzvah, getting a driver’s license, or an 18th birthday. Our son turned 18 days before a Presidential election, and I still feel the pride we all felt, walking down the block to our polling place where the three of us voted, him for the first time. We took a picture and it was featured prominently in our holiday letter that year. When our daughter voted for the first time, we repeated the ritual. When they were away at college, we sent them their mail-in ballots and information on local candidates that were on the ballot. Whatever they do in life, they started out with a strong understanding of how important it is to be a good citizen and to vote.

How do you encourage civic-mindedness in your family? How do you raise smart young voters?


A version of this post originally appeared at Go Deeper Now, published with permission. Pick up your copy of Joy’s book, Magenta Nation today! 

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