I grew up in a house where we talked about current events and politics. My uncle worked for a political party – the same one I currently work for – and I always knew that my mom voted, my grandparents voted. My father has donated money to any candidate that asked him, whether he supported them or not, because he believes in their right to run.
I firmly believe that people should be engaged in politics, should talk about the issues they feel passionately about, and everyone – everyone – should vote.
This engagement and passion starts with education. Since my daughter was born 15 months ago, I have taken her while I voted in a provincial by-election, a municipal election and to the advance polls for the federal election. As she grows up and understands more, I will explain the process to her – presenting your voter card, taking your ballot behind the ballot station, marking an ‘x’ next to your choice.
I firmly believe it’s incredibly important that Canadian citizens understand the way Canada’s parliament works. When you take your son or daughter to vote, explain that you’re voting for your Member of Parliament. Currently 308 Members of Parliament make up the House of Commons, and the party with the most seats in the House of Commons is invited to form the government. The leader of that party becomes our Prime Minister, and the leader of the second party becomes the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition – because we are a Commonwealth country and the Queen is still our head of state.
Explain why you chose who you did, what they say that you believe in, what they will do for your neighbourhood – the constituency. Kids always want to understand what’s important to their parents. They are naturally curious and whatever you can do to help them understand how important voting can be will make them better citizens in the future.
As kids get older, you can take them to all-candidates debates or to campaign events. Since you are lucky enough to live in the capital, you can take them to visit Parliament and even take in some of the debate in the House. One of my favourite things to do as a kid was to visit the Hill and have my grandfather tell us who all the statues were.
Another great things that parents and teachers can do, something that we did at my elementary school that I still remember, is put together a mock election. Tell your kids about the candidates, maybe even get the candidates in to talk to the class, and let the kids vote.
Anything you do to help your kids understand what their voice can mean in our democracy will make this country a better place.
Amy is mom to one year old Maggie and a 4 year old schnauzer named Henry. You can read her blog at amyboughner.ca where she writes about motherhood and anything else that’s on her mind.