The youth who will inherit our future may not yet be old enough to vote, but their voices can still be a part of the conversation.
In fact, engaging youth in age-appropriate political discourse supports a healthy development journey. According to Trey Greyson, Director of the Harvard Institute of Politics, “Discussing controversial issues, engaging in service-learning… being contacted by parties and campaigns, and participating in extracurricular groups all predict good civic engagement outcomes for students.”
To help support the teens and children in your care, here are three tips from Youth Service America:
- Discuss current events
Youth can begin to understand U.S. politics and form their personal views well before they are old enough to vote. So encourage them to learn about the issues that are important to them by watching local and national news broadcasts and regularly reading newspapers or appropriate online news articles. If possible, make sure these news resources are un-biased and readily accessible.
Remember that not every family or child has access to view live debates or election night results. Hosting a Viewing Party is one way to help engage the entire community, especially children and teens, in the democratic process.
BONUS TIP: If you know an experienced group facilitator, ask them to lead a group discussion afterward.
- Engage in service-learning
Voter registration is critical to the democratic process. Before they turn 18, teens can volunteer for Voter Registration Drives at YMCAs or other community organizations. These drives educate families, friends and neighbors about the electoral process.
Teens can also serve as poll workers on election day. In fact, 41 states allow high school students to volunteer as poll workers at locations directly on-site or at a nearby school.
- Practice voting
Create mock elections within your programs to engage and teach younger kids about the electoral process. These activities are a great way for youth to experience—and get excited about—exercising their rights!