Parenting: The Life of Pie

December 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Ann Brown, Parenting

By Ann Brown, Parenting Consultant

I went to see “The Life of Pi” during Thanksgiving weekend. It gave me much to think about in terms of what we choose to believe in life. It also gave me a lot to think about in terms of why, even though I do not care about candy at all – I am way more of a wine, bread, and cheese overeater – when I get to a movie theater, I become obsessed with Red Vines. I almost thought about that more than I watched the movie.

Oh great. Now I want Red Vines. Hold on while I run over to the Lake Twin.

The holiday season brings with it a lot of opportunities to bring children into moments of suspended reality and pure wonder. Life, actually, gives us a lot of opportunities to bring children into moments of wonder (although what I paint with a broad stroke as “wonder” is what some people might call “science”. In my defense, I was a music major in college. Science classes? Um, no thank you), but at the holiday season the opportunities are easier to find.

So, me, I am going to weigh in here as PRO wonder. Pro-miracle and pro-magic.  (If you happen to have children who can read, you might want to keep the next few paragraphs out of their sight…)

Of course, it’s easy for me to say that I think it’s great that kids believe in Santa. I’m Jewish, and all things Christmas hold a certain unattainable, probably unrealistically Norman Rockwell kind of allure for me, whereas our family Hanukah parties more resemble Picasso in his Expressionist period. But even more than that, I am all for balancing the overly factual, overly information-laden kind of world into which your kids were born.

I believe there is a difference between telling your child a lie and protecting wonder. Keeping wonder alive for your child is saying, “I have never seen the Tooth Fairy, but I like to believe she brought you this quarter”, whereas a lie is more like, “I know her. She hung out with me after she visited your room. We watched Big Love. She ate all the cashews out of my Moose Munch.”

When my children were little, they used to love it when I cut their apples so that the seeds formed a magical star. I made up a sweet little story about it, featuring sprites and fairy dust and all sorts of crap that I used to my advantage by turning it into a morality play in which the good little children always cleaned their rooms.

Anyway, when my kids were, like, four, they figured out that magic had nothing to do with the way the apple seeds made a star pattern. In fact, my scientific children were positively concerned about my lack of, well, smarts – a concern they hold to this day, to tell you the truth. A few years ago, when I made an offhand comment about how Philo of Alexandria (philosopher in 20 BCE) probably invented philosophy, all my horrified son could say gently to me was, “Wow. The 1960’s alternative education movement really failed you, didn’t it?”

I still don’t totally understand why what I said was stupid, but that’s a problem for another day.  The point is, my children were quick to eschew magic as an answer to how anything happens but I still tried. I believe there is value in a sense of wonder for young children.

Albert Einstein once said, “We can live life believing that everything is a miracle, or that nothing is a miracle.”

And he was at least as smart as my miracle-eschewing sons.


Parents: Finding Time for Your Shows

November 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Parenting

By Jennifer Smith


Hey parents, remember the days before kids when you could just veg out and watch your favorite TV show? Ever get to do that now?  Probably not. Being a parent means giving one-on-one attention to your little one during all waking hours. And by the time the kids are in bed, it’s often too late to watch the show you enjoy most. (And you can’t really watch that favorite show with the kids, since it’s most likely inappropriate for young eyes and minds.)

Using a streaming service gives parents the ability to watch the shows they enjoy at the time that works for them. Parents can stream “LOST” on Netflix in those early morning hours while the household is still asleep. (A show like “LOST” requires steady viewing, which is nearly impossible while the children are awake.) And for those nightowls, the streaming service is there so you can watch your favorites late at night, once the house is quiet.

With today’s services, parents don’t have to wait for encore presentations of their favorite shows; Internet streaming destinations offer entire seasons of shows that are still in production but have long since left the airwaves.

There are times when children can benefit from streaming sites too.  An ill child missing school can now watch her favorite shows, which can truly make the difference between a miserable sick day or a comfortable snuggle on the sofa.

For families who enjoy TV time together, family-friendly, educational programming is widely available online. Parents and children can learn and be entertained together. And best of all, they can do it on their own clock. Between work, dinners, homework, sports practices and games, and various social commitments, it is nearly impossible to catch a regularly scheduled television program.

This is why a solid streaming service is invaluable to today’s modern family.


Your Children and Finances: Earlier the Better

November 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Parenting

By Jennifer Smith

Often the lessons our children pick up on come directly from the examples we set. When parents struggle with money, don’t talk to their children about it, and don’t instill good financial practices in their kids, they set their children up for potential struggles as adults. Our society contains many marketing messages which can financially ruin someone very quickly. Use the following tips to make sure you teach your children how to manage and save money.


Five Tips Every Parent Should Understand

1.  Actions Speak Louder than Words

Children of all ages mimic their parents and it extends further than picking up on the language they use or a son wanting to be just like his father. When parents struggle financially while hiding those struggles, children become adults without a good understanding of how to handle money. It’s not always easy, but as parents, if you set a good financial example, pay your bills on time, and include your children in the budget conversation every month, you will teach them lessons they won’t learn in school.


2.  Put Them in Charge

It might seem strange to think about a five-year-old child in charge of money, but you need to start them early.  Young children will need you to lead the way, but as they get older, you can use a prepaid visa card, checking account, and saving account to help teach them how to manage money. Even if you, as the parent, do the actual buying of things for them, you can still put the money in their account, help them create a budget, and allow them to make the payments.

This can include paying for school activities, lunches, extra-curricular activities, and other expenses you would usually just write a check for. By depositing the money into their account, along with any spending money you give them for chores around the house, they learn early how to handle money. This will serve your kids very well as they grow into young adults and start to take on more expenses.

3.  Teach with Consequences

A huge mistake parents make, after doing everything else right, is not allowing for consequences. For example, you help your new teenager open a checking account, deposit all the money he needs for the month into the account, and then he writes a bad check. Instead of teaching him to do extra chores or use some of his savings to pay for the bad check (and all the fees that go with it), you just…cover it. As much as you might think you’re protecting him, you’re really just teaching him that it’s okay to write bad checks because Mom will just bail you out.


It might be difficult to sit on the sidelines as your child deals with the consequences of missing some activity because she didn’t manage her money well.   But remember that this experience will teach her a lesson  – an important lesson learned early, before it could cause larger issues. Let the consequences do the punishing and it won’t take more than one or two bad checks for the lesson to get across.

4.  Pay Allowance

Yes, your children should earn a small income from you. They should have a set of chores (age appropriate) to do just because they are a part of the family and household, but you should also provide them with a few other weekly chores they earn allowance for. Make sure, however, that if they don’t complete a chore, you don’t pay for that specific one. This helps instill the values of work and your kids will feel good about earning their own money.

5.  Teach Giving and Saving

If you don’t get through to your children with any other financial lessons, giving and saving will serve them very well. Teach them how to give a percentage of their income, no matter how small the amount is, to a charity, church, or another good cause. You can even pick a charity you and your child feel some type of connection with and match their donation. Giving is a very important lesson and don’t forget, this lesson is also learned from example.

Teaching your children how to save money is another very important lesson. As they enter into teenage years, you can offer to match the money they save, up to a certain amount, towards a car. If they are 13 years old, you are giving them three years to save enough to buy a car. This teaches your children to save towards large purchases instead of financing. (You can start such savings lessons at a much younger age using toys they children want or places they want to go.)

Because schools don’t teach young adults how to handle money, this duty falls upon the parents. Start young with simple lessons and lead your children with your own example. You can seek the advice of many professional and financial programs for children, if you need help. Just make sure you talk about money and include your children in your decisions, so they can learn how to handle money before someone else teaches them the wrong ways.


Music to Bring Us Closer

November 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Modern, Modern Living, Parenting

By Jennifer Smith


Bringing the entire family together is easier said than done. This is especially true in these modern times where computers and the Internet have all but completely taken over the lives of teenagers and young adults (and let’s face it: us parents, too). And many family-time options are costly. But music is one perfect option for bringing family together, and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime.

Consider the following ways in which music brings us closer, all of which make a case for exploring music more with your friends and family:

Learn an Instrument Yourself.  Many people feel as if they’re incapable of learning how to play music simply because they haven’t taken the time to do so yet in their lives. The fact is, however, learning to play an instrument doesn’t need to be difficult, and can be an extremely enriching and rewarding experience. You can often find big brand guitars for cheap prices by shopping the sales at your local music stores.   Lessons don’t have to expensive either. You can pursua a new interest AND spend time with your family by teaching it to them as well.


Have a Weekly Jam Session.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of learning how to play an instrument is having the opportunity to jam with other people. While family schedules can often get in the way of spending quality time at home, you can help to get your family more involved by holding a weekly jam session –every Monday night, for example. This way, you can teach your family what you’ve been learning about music, and can even invite friends over to take part in the jam. This is a fun and inexpensive way to have a truly exciting evening at home.

Encourage Your Family.  As rewarding as learning how to play music can be, it can also be an extremely frustrating experience. Those who are trying to learn a new instrument can often get discouraged throughout the process, and many decide to stop playing as a result. You should do everything possible to encourage your family members to stick with music, especially if they begin to show signs of frustration. Explain that nothing worth seeking out is easily attainable, and that music is no exception to the rule; this can be a very encouraging statement.

There is no doubt that music – be it for celebration,  expression, ambience, appreciation -has the power to bring people together.  Remember to utilize music with your family time as often as possible.


Parenting: Enough is Enough

November 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Parenting, Parenting Coach

By Ann Brown, Parenting Consultant

You knew this was coming. I mean, it’s November. Which is practically December. Which means you are gonna start buying all sorts of crap for people you love because that’s what we do in December.  And then, in January and February, you wonder why your kids don’t clean up their toys and why you have to nag them and why they don’t appreciate what they have and why, when they break one of their toys, they just shrug and say, “We’ll buy a new one.”

You openly wonder how such entitled children came to live with you.

You – who works hard for every penny, who knows the value of a dollar, who uses a teabag three times before composting it. Oh, and yes – you compost. And reuse. And repurpose. And re-whatever else it is we are supposed to “re”.

And still, our kids beg us for a toy that they use only once. And they turn up their noses at our organic, shade-grown quinoa burgers (when children are starving all over the world). And they have no regard whatsoever for hard work. Where did we go wrong?

Well, I don’t want to answer that question because it’s too depressing. Plus, if you are in either my Two’s classes or parenting groups, you have already heard me pontificate on that topic more than you want to remember. So, instead, I am going to answer this question:

Where can we go right?

Happily, it’s a perfect time to have this conversation. What with the holidays approaching and all.

I am not going to regurgitate another one of those popular magazine lists about making the holidays meaningful because you can get on your union-made bicycle and pedal down to the co-op and buy the magazine yourself. Instead, I am going to offer an in-depth article on just ONE area of change: stuff.

A mom in my Two’s class hit the nail on the head when – in telling us that she takes her child’s beloved toy away when the child misbehaves – she said, “I have a feeling it doesn’t even matter. She has a million other toys to play with.”

True. We all have too much stuff.

And yes, it’s the same old annual blah blah blah about having too much stuff. Really, who among us would disagree with that? Yet, we don’t really do anything radical about it. Oh, we gather a bagful of things to donate, but within months, new things are in the house.

And here’s the deal: kids cannot possibly learn to appreciate what they have when what they have is a giant load of stuff. One cannot savor a treasure when a million other treasures are in front us,  just waiting to be savored.

I think of it as food (big surprise, no?). If the refrigerator is always filled with every single food I love, each item loses value.

Oh wait. No it doesn’t. I will appreciate every bite of every item I eat. And I will eat it all every day.

Um, okay, so it’s not like food.

But it is like stuff.

I like to talk about that show on PBS many years back, called PIONEER HOUSE. Or maybe it was FRONTIER HOUSE.  Hold on, I’m going to Google it.

FRONTIER HOUSE. Oh, and while I was on Google, I found that Zappo’s has the clogs I want. ON SALE.  But I did not buy them because even I can see the hypocrisy in ordering new shoes while writing an article on getting rid of our stuff. Although my birthday is coming up in April. I’m just mentioning…

So, the premise of FRONTIER HOUSE is that modern families agreed to live in 1880’s frontier conditions for, I think, seven or eight months. I command you all to watch the entire series. Or to read this article all the way through and hear what I have to say about it.

When the kids were without all their stuff, when all they had for toys was a stick and piece of string that their parents fashioned into a sort of yo-yo, when it took all day to churn the butter for the bread, those kids really appreciated every single thing they had. And, many months later, when those kids were back in their track mansions, in their media rooms, in their stuff-filled lives, they admitted that they were bored. And kinda sad.

We need meaning in our lives. And it is very difficult to find meaning in something – even in a toy – when meaning is obscured by a mountain of somethings.

We do not want our kids to grow up to be mindless and desperate consumers. We want them to grow up to be grateful and resourceful and happy. We want them to know that when you have a jacket that is perfectly good, you don’t really need another one. Same with a dining room table. Or a car. Or a house.

The bad news is that whatever we hope our kids will someday do begins with what we do today. I know, right? It sucks to be a role model.

How much is enough? I am going to be asking that question this month in class and in my groups.

Or maybe I will ask it after I get the clogs.





I Adopted My Own Children

November 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Parenting, Same Sex Parent

By: Heather Somaini

Yes, you read that correctly. I adopted my own genetically biological children.

As same sex marriage continues to evolve in our great state of California and across the country, you might think that just having children and then getting your name put on their birth certificate would be everything a parent would need to do. But funny enough, same sex parents and their children fall into a legal grey area that sometimes feels like the Wild, Wild West to me. No one truly knows what “should” be done until a case is presented that tests the laws that exist.

But back in 2007 when our little guys were born, it was even more vague and grey. Before we got pregnant, Tere and I had completed and submitted all the appropriate paperwork for a Domestic Partnership in the state of California. A domestic partnership provides to same sex couples most, if not all, of the same rights, protections, and benefits that straight couples have. That sounds great, right? I agree.

What it doesn’t do, is require any other state to also grant those same rights and protections. What that means is that even though our family is protected in California, if we were ever to travel outside of, or move to, another state, we can’t be guaranteed those same rights. In fact, those rights are actually stripped away in other states every day.

We knew we had to protect ourselves and our children as much as we could and our lawyer highly recommended a Step-Parent Adoption which would legally define me as the twins’ second parent. Even though we used my eggs (and an anonymous sperm donor) and the babies were genetically mine, no one really pays attention to it. Instead, the birth mother (in this case, Tere) is considered the only true, legal parent. So we petitioned the court to legally recognize my kids as mine and subject me to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under the law of any other parent.

The process of adopting for us was not as stringent as a standard adoption. There was no home visit or psychological profile that needed to occur. Instead, the four of us had to trudge down to a social worker’s office and spend a few hours telling our entire life story, from how we met all the way through our extended journey through baby-making.

I know a number of other people were really upset by the whole process and even having to go through with it but I sort of felt like it was a learning experience just like any other. It made me really think about what it meant to be a parent to these two little creatures that I rushed to come home to, the ones that woke us up in the middle of the night, the munchkins that were putting me through the paces every day. They were mine and no one could say otherwise but this legal document would make it official.

A number of months later, we all went before a judge in Monterey Park. He asked some very serious questions. I answered them all in the affirmative. He pounded his gavel and made it official. That was it. The babies each got a stuffed animal. I know it will probably never really come up for the kids because it would be difficult for them to even understand family law until they’re much older and by then I’m sure it will have all been hashed out but hopefully they will know that we did everything we could to make sure we were all “covered” as a family.

For a brief moment in time, the state of California allowed same sex couples to marry. Almost a year after the finalization of the adoption, Tere and I were legally married by our friend Zach. Once again, we’re in a grey zone since same sex marriages soon after that were suspended and it’s all slowly making its way through the court system.

We have one of everything – a Domestic Partnership Certificate, a Marriage Certificate, and a Legal Step-parent Adoption – and we’ll wait and see how lots of people decide how to define what we already know. We’re a family and nothing they do in Sacramento or Washington DC or Tuscaloosa for that matter is ever going to change that.


Understand Helicopter Parenting Before You End Up Enrolling Your Kids in an Online School Program

November 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Parenting

By Brianna Meiers

In recent years, educational experts have noted the growing presence of “helicopter parents,” or mothers and fathers who assume a high level of involvement in their child’s academic and professional affairs. While these parents defend their actions as healthy and indicative of a supportive family unit, many argue that helicoptering can have detrimental long-term consequences on children that extend far into adulthood. Helicopter parents earn this nickname from the way they seemingly “hover” over their children throughout adolescence – and in many cases, after their sons and daughters have left the house to pursue a college degree. Though the term carries negative connotations, many parents take pride in the characterization. “I acknowledge that there is a very fine line that separates a parent who is ‘involved’ from one who is ‘overinvolved,” self-described “helicopter mom” Sally Rubenstone told US News & World Report. “And, often, it is better to err on the side of the latter, rather than to not provide adequate guidance and support to kids who need it. … A student who is a brilliant scientist or an amazing artist isn’t necessarily a super secretary.” The helicopter parent movement has other defenders, as well. In 2007, the National Survey of Student Engagement polled students at 24 American universities. According to The Washington Post, students with helicopter parents were more engaged with course materials and likelier to participate in “deep learning activities” like post-class discussions with professors and independent research projects. “Compared with their counterparts, children of helicopter parents were more satisfied with every aspect of their college experience, gained more in such areas as writing and critical thinking, and were more likely to talk with faculty and peers about substantive topics,” noted George D. Kuh, the survey’s director. However, a more recent study by researchers at New Hampshire’s Keene State College reveals that over-parenting can also have a highly negative impact on grown children. According to the report, college freshmen with helicopter parents (who comprised roughly 10 percent of their class) are less likely to be socially active with their peers – and likelier to remain dependent on mom and dad. This study is bolstered by numerous studies reported in recent decades. An August 2012 article by The New York Times profiled Dr. Carol Dweck, a social and developmental psychologist at Stanford University who has studied helicopter parenting in-depth. Her findings indicate that children who are not constantly supported are likelier to take on more difficult work; children who are routinely praised as “smart,” on the other hand, will shy away from tough tasks for fear of losing their elite status. Though academia may seem more enjoyable to children of helicopter parents, these studies suggest that micromanaging from mom and dad can lead to adult children who struggle on their own. Today’s experts argue that the most effective parents support and nurture their children – but also hold them accountable and teach them the value of autonomy. Independence is a crucial step toward adulthood, and college students who heavily rely on their parents for support and encouragement are setting a potentially disastrous precedent.

Brianna Meiers’ discussion on the rise of helicopter parenting is a follow-up on ongoing conversations about appropriate parental involvement in child development and academic milestones.  According to Ms. Meiers, who writes primarily for those who want to pursue psychology degrees, helicopter parenting can have its upsides–but must be approached with caution if we want our children to grow into confident and independent adults.

Kids Have the Right to Be Angry. Really.

October 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Parenting, Parenting Coach

By Ann Brown

I could not remember my age the other day. I was in the middle of a sentence and I wanted to reference how old I am but I just blanked. Later, in the car, I tried to calculate it mathematically (“okay, I was born in 1954, so I was one year old in 1955, and I was two years old in 1956…”) and failed, but that’s a story for a different time.

This story is about the fact that I want to get some things down on paper because my memory is slipping. You know, now that I am, um, er, 57 years old. Or 58. Or 56. Or 73. I have no idea.

I also want to get things down on paper because I have this kickass idea for a parenting flip-book. You know, those books that have each page divided in three sections and you can mix and match, say (in this case), “my child threw a shoe at the kindly old lady when we were at church” or, say, “my child barfed up Count Chocula at the saleslady when we were at Bridgeport Village”  and then you can read the other side of the page to find out what to do about it.

I have many other clever ideas. I come up with them during faculty meetings when the topic isn’t ME. I get a lot of time to think. Next time you see me, ask me about my drive-through salad bar idea.

Anyway, so, here are the top, oh, five things I want to immortalize in this article:

  1. “Everybody has the right to be angry when they don’t get what they want”. I think I have said this in my parenting classes about a bajillion times. I say it in reference to the penchant we parents have for laying down the law to our kids and then, when they understandably react with anger, we then continue to make them “get over it”. Let’s face it, spending the afternoon with a three-year-old who wanted a popsicle and didn’t get one is no day at the beach, but trying to get your kid to be happy about it is like swimming into a rip tide. (I think. I really have no idea about riptides but it seemed a clever analogy.) That said, this does not mean your kid can express his/her unhappiness with your decision by exercising emotional terrorism. Following you around all day long, poking you with an action figure, or disrupting dinner with nonstop whining needs to be addressed, but it’s the behavior that needs to be addressed; this is not the time to yet again tell your kid why s/he should be delighted to not get a popsicle. Personally, if a child wants to hold on to her beef about the stupid popsicle and show me how she feels by, say, quiet, long-suffering sighs every time I walk by her, so be it. Frankly, I’ve held on to more stupid issues with Robin and I’m 57. Or 58. Or 24. I really have no idea. And, let’s face it; you are never going to convince your kid that she should not be upset about it. You might be able to shut her down about it, you might get in some wise words of perspective, but in the end, we all come to closure when we get there. You can say with detached compassion, “I get it that you are angry. I said ‘no popsicles’ and you wanted one.”  But it is what you do after you say it that fosters perspective. Which is, go about your business and don’t juice it.

Well, as it turns out, I have already written 661 words (no, wait. 665. No, 666. YIKES. Wait. 670. Whew) and I’ve only made it to point #1. Guess I will tackle another point next time.

One point per piece. That gives me, um, er, three more points to make. Or four. I really have no idea.


Pants on Fire (A Bit of Parenting Advice)

October 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Parenting, Parenting Coach

By Ann Brown

Liar, liar, pants on fire. That was a big topic on the parenting couches this month. According to a random sampling of dozens of you, it appears as though there is an epidemic of crime among the four-year-olds of the nation. This is particularly troublesome to parents, as four- and five-year-olds appear to be, well, capable of knowing better. They also tend to not buckle under interrogation, resorting to such alibis as crossing their arms over their chests and calling us stupid pooper monkey butts. Your old powers are no good in the land of Fours and Fives.

It takes some new thinking.

When a child lies about doing something, we often fixate on busting them, interrogating them, forcing a confession, and then exacting a promise from them to never, ever, ever do it again. Unfortunately, that strategy – however tempting and well intentioned – does not allow for the teachable moments that really get to the heart.

Most kids will confess their crimes if the spotlight isn’t on them. Days, weeks, later, he might mention, “I took a toy from school and put it in my pocket.”  Then comes the inevitable silence in which all things are possible.

Try not to blow it at this point. Like I always did. And like most of us do.

Instead of jumping on the moment, letting loose a tirade of “how could you?”s and “you know better than that”s and “WHY???”s (all of which usually just send a child into dummying up and calling for an attorney), take a breath and say, “I am really glad you told me about it.”

Then…..say nothing. At least for a few seconds. Allow your child to fill the silence with whatever else she wants to say. Practice your neutral face. (Go on. Go to the mirror and practice it. I’ll wait here). Remember that the more you fill your child up with YOUR thoughts and words on the subject, the less you are allowing safe communication to happen, and the less your child will want to come to you to talk about things like this. So, breathe. Listen. Count your teeth with your tongue. If you are a woman, do 25 Kegels. If you are a man, quietly squeeze whatever it is you’ve got going on down there.

Then, say to your child again, “I am really glad you told me.”  Ask her if she feels better now that she isn’t holding that secret anymore. Talk about how holding a secret like that can feel heavy, like a big rock, and how the way to not have to hold the rock is to talk about it.

The more you can begin by validating that it feels better to unload your secrets, the more your child will talk to you.

Most times, if we can stay neutral and allow the child to continue talking, he will begin to cry. This is also a teachable moment. You can say, “you know, crying means you know you made a very wrong choice when you stole that toy. It’s good that you understand it was wrong, because that will help you make better choices next time.”

You can also brainstorm with your child about what to do when you see something that you really, really, really want, but can’t have. We all feel that way – we can be a blueprint for our kids for dealing with the draw of “I want it”, which can lead to “therefore, I am gonna take it.”

I know it’s a kinda inside-out way to approach a confession. However, validating the physical feeling of holding a secret and then feeling better when you confess can go a long way in helping your kid get to his moral compass. And in the end, it is your child – not you – who is going to have to read that compass and choose the path.

And that’s the truth.




Talking Politics with Kids

October 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Parenting

While you may want to avoid talking politics in social settings, the same is not true at home.  In fact, children are witnesses to our most honest opinions on most matters, including politics.   As parents, you are responsible for introducing the idea of politics and debate to your children, and launching their personal journey toward being part of the democratic process.  No small task.

How can parents help their children to understand the importance of politics and debate while reassuring them that they’re safe?

According to Claire Haas, vice president of education at Kiddie Academy, “The key to making sense of the election is explaining politics in a way that a child can understand and digest.  In fact, parents shouldn’t miss this great opportunity to teach their families about expressing and respecting differing opinions.”

Claire offers the following tips and election-related activities for children:

Have a Party.  Encourage your child to create their own mock political party. They can decide on their platform, create a symbol, and even debate siblings or friends on the merits of their party.  Perhaps the winner gets to choose the next movie to see or meals for a week.

Vote on it. Macaroni & cheese or tacos for dinner? Create a mock voting booth and ballots for each member of the family. When all the votes have been cast, tally the results and talk about the process and how it relates to choosing a president.

Dinnertime Debate.  Give each member of the family 2 minutes over dinner to discuss why they prefer one candidate over the other.  Be sure to include younger children – it may result in some unique perspectives.  Children can practice important life skills, including active listening, respect for others, and taking turns.

Provide Age-Appropriate Answers.  Younger children may simply want to know what an election means, in the most basic terms.  Older kids will likely want more details.

Explain Yourself.  Particularly if you are passionate about the candidate you prefer, take the time to explain why.   Defend your position, and what you like or don’t like about each candidate.  Encourage your kids to ask questions or choose a candidate they prefer, even if it’s not the same as your own choice.

Write a Letter.  Whether electronic or old-school ink and paper, writing a letter to a politician is a great way to demonstrate the democratic process, and the importance of sharing opinions.  In an election year, it’s likely your child will get a response.

Here are the addresses:
President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500 (Link to email form:

Romney for President, PO Box 149756, Boston, MA 02114-9756(Link to email for

You can also find your local representatives by starting at www.(your state).gov.


This article was originally posted on Kiddie Family Academy.


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