3 Tips to Raise Engaged Citizens


Many of us growing up learning that talking about politics and religion in public is a no-no. But in this area the rules of public discourse are completely different, we ask people what they do when we first meet them, we ask people how much they pay for rent, and we most definitely talk politics. So with that being said, I am very intentional about how I talk to my teen daughter about politics and being an engaged citizen. Here are my three tips: 

1. Staying Neutral

I have always been interested in politics and I am very passionate about a lot of issues. But when I talk to my daughter about issues I try not to color it with my own opinions. I do my very best to just explain both sides of issues as they come up. While it would be great to have my own mini-me to think like me and ultimately vote the way I vote, it’s far more important to me that I am raising an independent young woman that can think critically for herself, even if that means we one day cancel each other’s votes out. And while opposing sides can get in to intense debates and throw jabs at each other, I explain to her that we all generally have similar basic goals, but have different ideas about how we get there.

2. Establishing the Habit

While I try not to influence her thinking about issues, I definitely try to influence her thinking about voting. When possible, I try to take her to the polls with me. I want her to know that voting is not only her right, but her duty when she turns 18. Being both female and black, I want her to know how hard those before her fought for her to have the right to vote for everything from President to dog catcher (ok that’s not really a thing in the DMV but it is in VT!). I wear my “I voted” sticker with pride, and I hope that one day she will be just as excited to rock her sticker.

3. Planting the Seeds

Lastly, I want her to feel empowered, not just to vote, but to enact real change. Ghandi said “be the change you wish to see in the world” and I want her to do just that. I want her to know that there are plenty of ways to engage to make positive change, volunteer, write to local elected officials, or one day run for office herself. 

So I’m curious readers, do you talk to your kids about how they can be engaged with politics? Any tips to share? Comment below!