It broke my heart a bit to have to explain to him that presidents couldn’t stop all wars, or all robberies—and that no matter what we do, people get sick, hurt and die. Liam got very quiet. But, I told him, there’s a lot that presidents and all of us can do to bring peace, keep people safe, make fewer people choose crime and make sure more people have what they need to get and stay healthy. Liam perked up. That’s what I’ll do, then.
What was so wonderful about it to me was that in his seven-year-old mind, being an elected official meant taking care of others, especially those who need it the most. It was about doing the right thing, pure and simple. If only everybody thought that way.
Today is Election Day. By now, there can’t be too many undecided voters out there. I hope that everyone who is voting has thought like Liam did; I hope that everyone has a clear understanding of what each and every candidate will do to keep people safe and healthy. I hope that everyone has thought about those who need care the most, especially our children. I hope that everyone knows their candidates’ position on education (especially early education, which has everything to do with future academic success and is at risk of losing funding), on health care for children, and on programs that support families with children, especially poor families who can’t give their children everything they may need. Read Dr. T.Berry Brazelton’s wonderful Huffington Post blog on how when it comes to policy, children should be our bottom line. The American Academy of Pediatrics has resources to help you advocate for children, as does Voices for America’s Children.
Here is what I hope all parents do today:
Vote. Please vote. We take it for granted here in the US, but the ability and right to vote is a true privilege. We have the power to affect our future, to change things for the better, to be heard. Use it. Set that example for your children, so they will vote when they grow up (I am incredibly proud that my two oldest children who are studying abroad voted by absentee ballot!)
Take your children with you when you vote, if you can. I voted on my way to work so I couldn’t—but my husband will take our elementary school kids with him (they are off from school, which helps!). Let them see how it works. Let them feel part of it. If there’s a bake sale, buy stuff: it makes it more celebratory.
Talk to your children about why you are voting the way you are. Talk about the candidates and the issues and the ballot questions. Have them think about how they would vote if they could. Help them begin to understand how complicated this all is. Watch election results together. Make popcorn.
Be respectful of other points of view. As opinionated as you might be about an issue, help your kids see both sides. This can be hard—I struggle with it sometimes myself on certain issues—but raising kids to be tolerant could make a huge difference when it comes to the future of our country and our world.
Most of all, vote. Please.
To learn more about how Boston Children’s is working with decision-makers at all levels to help support the health of children, visit the website of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Office of Government Relations.