by Cheryl Jackson Thursday March 31, 2011

My daughter was three days short of her 18th birthday when Toronto went to the polls to choose a new mayor last year. Now, a few months later, she's old enough to vote in both the upcoming federal and Ontario provincial elections. I must say, I think I was more excited than she was when I realized this the other day. It's a momentous occasion. A milestone.

How do you prepare your kids for their civic duty to vote? We're focusing on civics and the environment this month and have posted some of our related discussions. Of course, kids do learn about our electoral system and procedures in school, but that's probably not enough. Our supervising editor here at TVOParents, for instance, makes a point of taking her 8-year-old son with her when she votes. I used to do that too when my kids were young. It always leads to a discussion - "Why are there so many names on the list?" "Why are you voting for that person?" "Can I tell my friends?"

Now that my kids are older and two of the three can vote themselves, I tell them to keep their eyes and ears open for news from the campaigns. I don't expect them to pour over the newspapers every night, but they should pay attention when they do hear or read about what the leaders and candidates are saying. They should talk about it with their friends - what's important to them? If they want more information, they should go out and find it.

You can start teaching your children about civics when they're very young, however. One way is by encouraging their activism in other ways. Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children, knows kids are natural activists and he talked to us about how parents can encourage activism.

Keep checking in with TVOParents as we add new ideas about civics and the environment for you and your children. Now's the time!