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HOW TO EXPLAIN THE GENERAL ELECTION TO KIDS

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Author Christian Darkin has some very practical advice

As an author, I visit a lot of schools, and I find that primary age children talk and think a lot more about politics than most adults imagine. Right now, in a school playground, you're as likely to hear Donald Trump's name mentioned as you are to hear Justin Bieber's.

So, how do you explain to children what is going on now a snap General Election has been called, why absolutely everyone is suddenly arguing about it, and why it matters?

The first step is to try to separate what elections are from the reasons you personally support (or oppose) the candidates on offer. It's confusing if children's questions about what an election is get answered by two opposing adults passionately arguing their own take on Brexit and the GDP.

Try to speak as though both sides have a valid point.

Try to speak as though both sides have a valid point, because if you make it sound as though anyone voting for the side you don't agree with is an idiot, children will quickly wonder what the point of the whole process is.

At its heart, all politics and all democracy is about fairness. It's about the complicated and often contradictory process of working out what is fair. And fairness is something even very young children understand well, and are passionate about.

How often have you heard a child say, ‘That's not fair!’? Try using examples children will be able to relate directly to, such as sharing sweets or toys. Once they grasp that, it's only a short step to understanding why, every few years, everyone gets a chance to pick who's in charge of the country.

That's why, when I came to write an ‘Act Normal’ book about an election, I called it Act Normal And Make Everything Fair. It's a chapter book for 5-8 year olds, and in it, Jenny and her brother decide the best way to make everything fair is to make everything INTO a fair. They also end up kidnapping the Prime Minister and going on the run from the press in a dodgem. In the process, they discover that:

a. Making things fair isn't as easy as it seems

b. A media circus is not at all like a normal circus

And

c. Even the Prime Minister gets tired of Acting Normal sometimes and must have a little cry

Finally, try introducing a bit of voting into your everyday life. ‘Who wants pizza and who wants pasta?’ is a pretty good question. And if your children can grasp that, you can even add in a little political negotiation. When they can't decide between two choices of pudding, tell them unless they find a way to agree within a time limit, they'll all leave with nothing.

After all, that's how the Brexit talks work.

:: Christian Darkin, author of the best-selling children's chapter book series Act Normal. Act Normal and Make Everything Fair explains how General Elections work in a way that is engaging, understandable and interesting for 5 to 9-year-olds.

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