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Kids say elections 'Life changing'

As adults across the United States watch the race for president, many parents might be surprised to know that their children are paying close attention, too., the web's most-visited site for children's health and development information, polled kids and teens to find out what they thought about the presidential race.

The KidsHealth® KidsPoll received responses from 1,337 kids and the TeensHealthSM TeensPoll received responses from 1,286 teens. Questions and responses for the two age groups varied, but one thing was clear among both: this election has become part of their world and they are definitely tuned in. The overwhelming majority, 75 percent of kids and 79 percent of teens, believe that the outcome of this election will change their lives in some way.

"It's clear that the choice adults make for the next president is something that kids and teens feel will make a difference in their lives, too," said D'Arcy Lyness, PhD, a child and adolescent psychologist and medical editor for Nemours' Lyness encourages parents to talk with their kids about the election and to encourage them to develop and express their opinions. "Ask children for their views on the candidates and issues. This reinforces that their opinions matter, too, and teaches them to express their own ideas and feelings."

The TeensHealth TeensPoll asked teens age 13 to 19 what matters when choosing a president. A "candidate's stand on issues" ranked highest with 84 percent of teens reporting this matters a lot while a candidate's gender and race ranked lowest (only 8 percent of teens said race and gender matter a lot).

When asked about a candidate's age, nearly 50 percent of teens said age matters somewhat while 40 percent say age doesn't matter at all. Opinions about the importance of a candidate's religious beliefs were evenly mixed; 29 percent said matters a lot, 37 percent said matters somewhat, and 34 percent said religious beliefs didn't matter.

The KidsHealth KidsPoll asked kids ages 6 to 12 who they thought would make a better president, mom or dad. The poll responses were almost even with 51 percent choosing mom and 49 percent choosing dad. Georgie (11, from Missouri) chose his mom because "She is great in times of trouble," while McKenzie (11, from California) picked her dad because "He always stands up for what he believes in." DJ (12, from Texas) had other reasons for his choice, saying his dad would make a better president because "He is just like MacGyver."

The KidsPoll also asked kids what advice they would give the next president. Hannah, (11, from North Carolina) would advise the next president to "Do something about the environment and the economy and the gas prices and do it fast!" Izzy (9, from Maryland) advised, "Do what you promised to do but amaze the country with it," and Mattie (11, from Delaware) said, "Dream big dreams and think outside the box."

"This election provides parents with a great opportunity to teach kids on a lot of levels," explains Dr. Lyness. To help parents make the most of it, Nemours' offers these tips for talking with kids and teens:

•Be reassuring. Kids and teens may be worried by what the candidates and others are saying about the economy or the job market. They might fear the family losing the house or a parent losing a job. Listen to their concerns and provide reassurance and perspective. If you're facing financial troubles, be honest and tell your kids (in an age-appropriate way) what you're doing to handle the problem.

•Keep it positive. In the heat of an election season, strong feelings about tough issues can spark disagreements. Use this opportunity to show kids and teens how to voice differences of opinion with respect, strength, and conviction.

•Suggest they get involved. Many kids and teens are quite interested in, and concerned about, the issues facing the country right now. Taking action helps them feel empowered and effective, and builds problem-solving skills. Help them think of what they can do, and talk about how small things can add up to make a big difference. Perhaps to save money, they'll want to make lunches instead of buying them at school. Let them know that just like voting for a candidate can make a difference, so can working toward an issue that they'd like to change.

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