You can barely motivate your teen to get out of bed in the morning, pick up his socks and put them in the hamper, or run a comb through his hair every day, much less take on the weighty responsibility of casting a vote. And yet, if your kid has crossed the age barrier into legal adulthood, it is now time for him to begin the arduous journey towards caring for himself, including making decisions that will affect the course of his country and his life. If you haven’t yet discussed with him the importance of voting, now is definitely the time to make him aware of the privilege of participating in a democratic system, as well as the meaning of the phrase “one man, one vote”. And of course, you want to impress upon him the necessity of making informed decisions when it comes to electing our nation’s leaders and making personal decisions about which ballot initiatives and measures to support. But being informed is not a once-a-year activity, so you will need to somehow encourage your child to take an interest in politics year-round. The only real problem is motivating him to take action.

Since a lesson in history is more likely to induce snores than a strong desire to peruse the voter guide and watch the debates, you may have to bypass the logical attack and appeal instead to your teen’s one true love: himself. You need to find a way to help your teen relate to the issues, and thanks to economic and social problems currently plaguing the country, you have a plethora of promising avenues to explore. For example, the recession has not only resulted in layoffs (which likely affect your age group more than his at this point), but also in budget cuts, particularly to schools. This could mean that schools short on funds will be forced to send professors packing and cut back on admissions. More likely, though, it will result in further hikes in tuition, fees, and other college-related expenses.

As a result your teen could find themself taking out larger student loans. And once they graduates, the job market that was of little concern to him just a few years earlier will suddenly become a major source of anxiety as his loans mature and he starts getting notices from lenders. You don’t necessarily need to take your point this far as it might start to sound like a lecture. But you can easily find hot-button issues that bear some impact on his immediate future or current situation. And there are social issues to consider, as well, such as the right of all people to marry, regardless of sexual orientation, or the rising concerns related to illegal immigrants. Teens tend to be drawn to the dramatic, so use their passions to push them towards a penchant for voting.

You don’t necessarily have to slap Red & Blue Elephants or Obama stickers on their cars and book bags as a way to get them on board with the voting process. And in fact, you should try hard not to get preachy or impose your own opinions on them. The best thing you can do if you want to send educated and empowered teens into the world is teach them to research the issues that will affect their lives and trust their ability to make informed decisions when it comes to filling in the ballot boxes. Motivating your teens can definitely leave you grinding your teeth and going prematurely gray, but the act of voting is important, so maybe it’s worth one last push before your growing chicks fly the coop.

Photo credit: fountaindaleteens.wordpress.com

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