Use the 2012 presidential election to help your child understand more about the process of choosing our nation's leader.

The kids are genuinely interested

Believe it or not, your child really wants to understand the presidential election process. In fact, 75 percent of kids and 79 percent of teens said they believed the outcome of the election would change their lives, according to a survey by Nemours'

Discuss politics with your children. "Their answers are often interesting," says Dr. John Duffy, a parenting expert and the author of The Available Parent. "Parents find that their children are more savvy and insightful that they would have thought."

Try these conversation starters at supper time

  • What is the most important part of the president's job? Why?
  • What is the first thing you would do if you were the president?
  • If you could talk to the president, what would you say?
  • What are the qualities of a good president?

Selecting a president is like choosing a friend

Compare the presidential election to the process of selecting a team captain, a friend or a class officer. Explain that sometimes people say one thing but do another. Ask your child: Would you rather be friends with...

...someone who promises to be your friend in exchange for a favor?


...someone who wants to be your friend without expecting anything in return?

You do want to choose a friend based on how they treat you and others. You don't want to base a friendship on how a friend looks or talks. A good president is very much like a good friend.

Talk about the campaign ads

The ads are in the mail, on billboards and on TV. Kids see and hear plenty. Take this opportunity to explain to your children the impact of positive versus negative campaigning.

A positive campaign is based on a candidate's strength. The person running for office promotes his or her accomplishments and offers suggestions about what can be done to make things better.

Dr. Duffy suggests telling your child, "I prefer ads and speeches where they talk about what they will do to fix things that are broken and sustain the things that are not."

A negative campaign, on the other hand, is based on the other candidate's weaknesses. The person running for office puts down the opposing candidate, hoping that doing so will improve his or her own image with the public.

Negative campaigns are a lot like bullying. Tell your kids, "I don't like those ads because you shouldn't have to cut someone else down in order to build yourself up," says Dr. Duffy.

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