Talking About the 2016 Presidential Election

Every presidential election year is a valuable opportunity to talk to your child about democracy, the importance of political participation, and our country’s political processes.

This year, the Presidential election has been especially polarizing. It’s hard to watch your favorite shows without seeing a political ad and seeing clips from a pundit’s talk show.  And children have lots of questions.

Below are questions we get from children about the election, and we included some suggested responses.  When talking to your child about a tricky subject, be calm, speak slowly, use simple language – and most importantly, be honest.  It’s critical to respect your child’s curiosity and desire to learn.

Take a look at our frequently asked questions below:

  • What is an election?

An election is a process for a country to choose its leaders.  In our country, America, we have an election to choose our leader, and our country’s leader is called a President.

When we choose a leader, we must know as much as we can about them. We need to read about and discuss our choices.

  • What is voting?

Voting can also mean “to choose”.  Just like you may “choose” between your favorite snacks or toys, our country must choose a leader by voting.  We vote by showing our choices on a ballot.

  • How do I vote?  Can I vote now?

You have to be a little older to vote. To vote, you must first register to vote. Sometimes you can register from a computer. Sometimes you can register by mail.

  • How will I know who wins an election?

We can read a newspaper or learn about the winner on the Internet.  Or we can watch TV.

  • What happens after an election?

The leader who wins has a big celebration – like a birthday party – with lots of balloons and cake. The leader who didn’t win congratulates the winner.

We must respect the leaders who run in the election. It is very hard to become a President. In January, the leader who won will have another big party and parade in Washington DC.

  • Why is an election important?

Our country is special because we can choose who will lead us.  The President lives in the White House, and they only live there for four years.  Then we have another election to decide who our President will be again.

To better understand the election process, try running a mock election at home.  Let your children see a voter registration card and show them images of a voting booth.  Create a ballot on paper or your computer screen and let them vote for their favorite snack, dinner entree, or vacation spot.