Given the political climate, many parents may feel that connecting your children to political activism is onerous at best, scary at worst. There are great reasons, though, to educate and involve your kids, but the most important one may be this: they know more than we may realize and letting them play a role in the future of their own world can be both reassuring and exciting for them.
How to start?
First, talk with your children about what they may know and care about. Many children may feel most passionate about animal welfare, others are concerned about changes in the environment, while still others are worried about poverty and other children. It is so important that children pursue an issue that they may feel strongly about.
Second, educate your children about the issues that they may care about. There are many sources specifically geared toward children that may help. The documentary series, Planet Earth, goes a long way to gently let them know about the challenges our environment face. The National Geographic Kids website and magazine has great information about animals. Similarly, the Time for Kids website and magazine has great information on history and current events. And there are great books, among them the Life and Times with 21 Activities series. You may want to start with the Civil Rights book in time for Black History Month. You can also take them on visits to walk around your local city hall or legislature.
Third, model everyday actions. By taking care of your own community, you can show them how to weave action into their lives. Let them know why you recycle, talk about those times when you walk instead of drive, and pick up garbage when you stroll through your neighborhood. They can sit down with you while you decide who to vote for, and they can help you decide what to donate (old toys? money? clothes?) and to whom.
Fourth, have them start with small steps. They don't have to take on the whole world at a young age. They can feel empowered through a few simple actions. Let them vote on what to wear in the morning, or on what is for dinner. Help them create fun signs to put up in your neighborhood about an issue they care about. Sharpen the pencils to help them write a letter to the editor - it will thrill them to see their name in print!
Fifth, get out there! Take them to community forums and help them prepare some questions for your leaders. Involve them in volunteer projects, like putting together baskets at your local food bank, or helping at a soup kitchen. Several communities have volunteer days to pick up trash at the beach or lake, or to pull out invasive species. Many organizations have lobby days, when you and your children can visit your leaders and talk about an issue close to your heart.
There so much you can do to help your children learn their civic responsibility and grown into involved, caring adults. By starting now, you may find so many opportunities to educate and activate your kids!
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