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Parents, use the election as a teachable moment

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  November 6, 2012 09:09 AM

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When I was a child, my father used to take me to vote with him. I remember it as something really exciting, being in the booth and watching him make his choices. I felt--I knew--that I was part of something important.

It's a tradition my husband and I have carried on with our children. Every year, we take our children to vote with us.

I think that here in the US, we often take our right to vote for granted. But voting is not something we should take for granted--all you need to do is read or watch some international news to understand this. By voting, we have power. Voting gives us a voice.

And yet, only about half of registered voters in the US vote in presidential elections. If it's not a presidential election, that number drops to about a third. That's a lot of voices missing--and a lot of power wasted.

So get started with your children. Take them to vote with you. Make sure they know that it's something important, like I did. (If there's a bake sale, buy something--makes it more fun.)

And like my father did, talk about the issues at home. Explain why you make your choices. Talk about ballot questions--have a real debate. Discuss and respect both sides--that's really important. Increasingly, we seem to be becoming polarized, with people voting along party lines without thinking everything through. Teach your children that nobody can do their thinking for them.

Most of all, vote. I know the lines can be long--I was in them this morning--and lives are busy. But that's all the more reason to make it a priority: that's the way you will set the best example for your children. That's how you can help be sure that once they turn 18, they will use their voice and their power.

My oldest two children are both studying abroad--and they both voted by absentee ballot. My dad would have been proud; I am. And hopeful for our future.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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