By Danielle Kocal • September 27, 2018•Issues, Other Issues
Like many of us, 2016 began a new era of activism in my life. During the election, I was excited to involve my two daughters (ages 3 and 6 at the time) as I taught them all about the first female Presidential candidate for a major political party, and my own personal role model. After the election, again like most of us, I worried about the issues I cared about and what would happen under our new administration.
I have always been an “activist,” even from a very young age – I created a club called Save Our World when I was 10 and spent weekends writing letters and making phone calls, I majored in Environmental Science long before most schools even had environmental classes, and I got my certificate in Environmental Law in law school. Growing up, my parents never did anything in particular to create this innate sense of activism, although they did encourage it throughout my childhood and into adulthood.
Now that I have two young children who will be directly impacted by the political decisions of today, for the rest of their lives, I feel an obligation to help them recognize their power – even as a kid, even now – to help lead the way to bringing about the changes they want to see in the world. Navigating this new political climate as an activist mom over the past two years has taught me a few things. Here are 5 ways to help your children become socially-conscious activists who are ready to take on the world:
1.Be the example. First, and most importantly, you need to be the person you want your children to emulate. If you are a parent, you already know that the little ones are watching. All. The. Time. If you want them to get involved, they need to see you involved too.
2.Talk to them about world events. This can be tricky, especially with younger children. It’s important to find age appropriate ways to discuss some of the bad, while always remembering to point out the good. As Mr. Rogers would say – “look for the helpers.” With younger children, sparing some of the details of a tragedy might be advisable, whereas older children are better able to handle it. Use your judgment with regard to how much you share, but always be sharing. If you want your children to care about the state of our world, they need to know what is happening in it.
3.Listen to them. It’s hard to contain yourself when you are passionate about something. Trust me, I know! But as important as it is for us to talk to our kids, it’s also important for us to listen. What are they passionate about? It might not be the same thing as you. But hearing their passions and encouraging them to share is one of the most important things you can do for a fledgling activist.
4.Find age-appropriate ways to help. There are no shortage of protests and rallies to attend right now, and for some children, that’s a great way to get involved. Only you know your child. But if a protest doesn’t seem like the right fit, there are plenty of other ways to get children involved. Letter writing, fundraising, donating, volunteering – there are so many things they can do. Introduce them to how it feels to make a difference, no matter how young they are.
5.Let them be kids. As an adult, it can seem like we are being bombarded with bad news of the day, all day long. At times it can feel all-consuming, and it could be the only thing we talk about with the other adults in our life. But our kids are just that – kids. As much as we want them to be involved and to care about the state of the world, it’s also extremely important for them to just be happy kids. Overwhelming them isn’t the goal, so spread out your activism, and make sure to do fun things together too. Not only will the kids benefit from the breaks, but you will too!
There’s no doubt that for many of us, this is a stressful time to be alive. We can’t fix it all, but we can make the most of it by using this time as a growing opportunity for our children, as well as a time to create family moments that will help shape our children into the amazing adults they will become.
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