Just how do you explain the General Election to Children? Or explain voting to a child? With the 2017 general election date looming, Christian Darkin, author of the best-selling series of children’s books, Act Normal, explains how we can talk about General Elections so that our young kids engage, understand and are interested!
As an author, I visit a lot of schools, and I find that primary age children talk a lot more about politics (and think a lot more about politics) than most grownups imagine. Right now, in a school playground, you’re as likely to hear Donald Trump’s name mentioned as you are to hear Justin Bieber’s.
And it’s easy to see why. If your parenting style is anything like mine, then when your 6-year-old asks you for the fifteenth time whether they can have some ice-cream, your response is probably something like, “I understand what you want me to do. I’ll decide for myself whether it’s a good idea, and you constantly going on about it won’t help your cause.” You probably have a similar response to the phrase, “strong and stable government.” Whichever side you’re on, the level of debate in this election wouldn’t be out of place in a year 2 primary playground.
So, how do you explain the General Election to children, what is going on, why absolutely everyone is suddenly arguing about it, and why it matters?
The first step is to try to separate what elections are from the reasons you personally support (or oppose) the candidates on offer. It’s confusing if children’s questions about what an election is get answered by two opposing adults passionately arguing their own take on Brexit and the GDP.
Try to speak as though both sides have a valid point, because if you make it sound as though anyone voting for the side you don’t agree with is an idiot, children will quickly wonder what the point of the whole process is.
At its heart, all politics and all democracy is about fairness. It’s about the complicated and often contradictory process of working out what is fair. And fairness is something even very young children understand well, and are passionate about.
How often have you heard a child say, “That’s not fair!”? Try using examples children will be able to relate directly to, such as sharing sweets or toys. Once they grasp that, it’s only a short step to understanding why, every few years, everyone gets a chance to pick who’s in charge of the country.
That’s why, when I came to write an “Act Normal” book about an election, I called it “Act Normal And Make Everything Fair”. It’s a chapter book for 5-8 year olds, and in it, Jenny and her brother decide the best way to make everything fair is to make everything INTO a fair. They also end up kidnapping the Prime Minister and going on the run from the press in a dodgem. In the process, they discover that:
a. Making things fair isn’t as easy as it seems
b. A media circus is not at all like a normal circus
c. Even the prime minister gets tired of Acting Normal sometimes and must have a little cry
Finally, try introducing a bit of voting into your everyday life. “Who wants pizza and who wants pasta?” is a pretty good question. And if your children can grasp that, you can even add in a little political negotiation. When they can’t decide between two choices of pudding, tell them unless they find a way to agree within a time limit, they’ll all leave with nothing.
After all, that’s how the Brexit talks work.
Christian is a father of two primary school age children and lives in London. He’s regularly called upon by the media (and teachers) to help with teaching coding – which is now on the curriculum. Christian’s first YA book was published by Bloomsbury (The Skull) and he self-published the Act Normal range which are hugely popular with school children and introduce topics not usually seen in children’s fiction including maths, science (including DNA, global warming), politics, history and much more! His book, Act Normal And Make Everything Fair, teaches kids about elections and democracy through the eyes of his characters, Jenny and Adam. Explain the General Election to Children the easy way.