For anyone who’s worried about the future generation of our country, let me put your mind at ease.
We are in good hands with this next generation of voters. With all the unfortunate side effects of living in a digital age, good things have also come from it. I’m speaking from experience with my two grown sons and one teenage daughter.
The Next Generation of Voters Are Global Citizens
Teenagers have their fingers on the pulse of events, people, and situations worldwide. They see beyond the borders of America to the entire world. They understand American politics and American culture are one piece in a big picture, and they literally see and interact with people all around the world, grasping the idea of a common human race.
Future Voters Are Well Informed
When I was 16, I worried about what I was going to wear the next day. My kids at 16 have talked about gun control and grassroots efforts to change legislation to reduce the risk of school shootings. Wherever you stand on this issue, I believe if childhood includes active shooter drills, then the kids have earned the right to research and express opinions.
Lest you fall in the concern that the next generation is simply parroting false social media narratives (let’s stop shaming teens), then challenge teenagers to do their own digging. Require them to be able to express their own stance on an issue with solid reasoning and what they propose to do about it. They are fully capable to gain these life skills at an early age. Listen, when my sixth grader came home talking about Socratic seminars, I knew I’d been outsmarted.
Future Voters Are Passionate About Social Justice
They are the Toms generation who bought a pair of shoes to give a pair of shoes. Teenagers and young adults of this generation watched events worldwide in real time, with all the powerful images that personalize the idea of wars on another continent, lives loss in a tsunami halfway around the world, and people fleeing for their lives due to ethnic cleansing.
They see it, and it stirs something within them. As I sat with my son helping him edit a paper for his high school English class, I was blown away at his advanced understanding of systemic and institutionalized racism. Future voters care because they can listen and learn the stories of others in ways we never could. We do well to have challenging conversations, asking opinions about world events and big concerns, creating a safe place to dialogue, and process even the hard things.
Future Voters Are Watching
As my kids step into adulthood, an incredible phenomenon is unfolding. My kids were listening, even when I thought they weren’t. When I thought they were zoned out, they were watching. I sit in quiet awe when I see them handling situations and relationships exactly like we tried to teach them to do. One of my favorite things about my season of mothering is seeing the full circle of seeds planted that are beginning to bear fruit.
In whatever stage of mothering you find yourself, keep at it. Stay the course. Try to be the adult you want your children to become. When things feel messy and off-course, regroup and press on. Be big enough to apologize when necessary to show the power of owning a mistake and learning grace. Hug often, express your love, discipline to train rather than just to punish, and create “wins” and happy moments when you all need them the most.
Engage in conversations about world events. Know that when you encourage and believe in kids, it inspires them to do better. Just as we seek to inspire our kids, be humble enough to be inspired by them. The next generation of voters are world changers, and I see it every day within the four walls of my house.
Take your kids with you to vote, wearing your masks, and standing in line. Teach that it’s a privilege to be part of our political system, and model the importance of treating other people with kindness and respect, even when we disagree. Common decency and courtesy should not be a lost art.
One day, your little ones will vote in their first presidential election, just as my two sons have this year. One day, the next generation of voters will be planning their futures and careers and begin to, as I often tell my kids, “adult like a boss.” You’ll sit back and be amazed and know they will lead well.