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Talking to Kids About the Vote

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UVA
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Many people are uneasy during these uncertain times – especially as we wait for the outcome of an historic election, and experts warn kids may be uneasy too.  Sandy Hausman talked with a professor of education about how best to help children cope with anxiety.

You might not expect children to care about politics or elections, but at UVA, Education Professor Nancy Deutsch says kids may be hearing about those things from their friends or the media.

"Sometimes they are overhearing snippets of conversations, or – if you’re like me and you have NPR on in the morning when you’re making your coffee or making dinner, and your kid is wandering in and out, they’re hearing pieces of the news," she explains.

They can often tell when their parents are worried, and the pandemic has meant major changes in their lives.

"There is already a level of anxiety, possibly of depression, and certainly of uncertainty," Deutsch says. "That is hard emotionally for kids.  Kids like stability."

So use this time, she says, to talk with them about civics – why it’s taking a while to count votes, what will happen once the election is decided, and can we continue to play a role in our democracy.

"Regardless of what the outcome of the election is, what are the things that we are going to be doing to be staying engaged as a family?  What are the things that we can do to help others in our community?  And that can be very comforting, right?  We have a plan going forward."

She advises parents to ask questions of their children, to respond honestly while providing reassurance and checking back as events continue to unfold.  

Hear Deutsch's interview with Sandy Hausman:

deutsch_interview.mp3