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With the recent Presidential elections I’m thinking a lot about the power of choice, our actions and consequences of those actions. As parents we are the ones able to vote in government elections, but how do our kids get a vote or have a say? And how do we prepare the future generation of voters to consider their responsibilities as citizens, to appropriately voice their own thoughts and opinions and to consider the costs of those decisions?

                Meal time and car time are great opportunities for this type of family discussion. Many people recommend family meals occur at least 2-3 times per week and, remember, these can be at breakfast not just dinner! Car time is valuable as well when phones, music and DVD players are turned off. Give your kids the chance to ‘vote’ on current family topics. This might be a time to consider reallocating chores, meal or entertainment choices. Discuss how democracy works and other forms of government. Are your kids members of Congress and you are the President with the ultimate veto power? These discussions are great ways to find out what’s on kid’s minds and what they value and think passionately about. This also gives kids the chance to be heard and feel empowered knowing that their opinion holds some weight in the family.

                In addition, and on a broader scale, there are life lessons to be learned about having a voice. All choices, decisions and actions have consequences. Consequences may be positive or negative. We can only control what we do, we cannot control the outcome. By making better decisions and choices we weight in our favor the chances of positive outcomes. Teaching your kids they have choices, even the choice to do nothing, empowers them to have a vote in any situation they may be involved in. These lessons can improve self-respect, self-control, positive motivation and living by intention instead of by accident.  As always, role modeling how your own opinion is voiced and sharing some of the consequences you have experienced is one of the most valuable messages of all.

For more great ideas on talking to your kids about government, community, personal responsibility and more ways to support your family and for other great parenting tips call the Family Support Line at 1-800-CHILDREN (800-244-5373) OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. You can also e-mail with questions or concerns. The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe you are the paramount person to decide what is best for your family. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.

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