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Activism & Parenting: Don’t They Belong Together?

Image Credit: Flickr / marygkosta

 

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I was making my usual rounds on Facebook this week and saw an article that really caught my interest, entitled, Occupy Your Kid: One Child’s Lesson in Activism and Humanity.  The article, from Sandra Guzmán on Mamiverse.com, is a great intro to the topic.  Guzmán explains in the article how taking her fourth grade son to an Occupy event made a positive impact on his level of awareness about the inequality that exists in our economy.

Somewhere between the subway ride and the protest, my kid’s life was profoundly touched. I know this because on our way back, after spending several hours inside the park, my son asked me for some change. I gave him all of the coins I had in my wallet and he ran back and gave it to a homeless man sitting on the stoop of our subway stop. He told me that his heart breaks even more now to know that a human being does not have a home to live in. Getting involved to change that is important, including, he said, giving them a few extra coins, if we have the money.

“When I look into a homeless person’s eyes, I see myself,” my son told me. “That could be me. That could be daddy. That could be my brother. That you could you! Let’s never forget them, mommy,” he declared or implored, I wasn’t sure.

What I am certain about is that those were powerful words from the mouth of a babe. In going to Occupy Wall Street my young son learned something that history books and schools could not teach him. To fight for dignity and justice is not only a noble thing, but a human must. An American tradition, even! Today you may protest on behalf of others, tomorrow, it may be you. And to see my young child understand the universal law, that we are one, is a most profound thing to experience as a mother.  ~  Sandra Guzmán, Mamiverse.com

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Experiences like this are more rare for children than one might think.  Often times, we attempt to shelter our children from reality, rather than educate them on it.  The fact that talks with our children about sex, drugs, race and other uncomfortable topics remain ‘taboo‘ is proof of this problem.  Ultimately though, research demonstrates that these conversations and experiences are very important in setting the example for our children and just as essential for the development of their own personal values and life choices.

My husband’s grandfather used to have a saying, It’s the parent’s responsibility to give children roots to grow strong and wings to soar high.  I think this phrase is fitting through so many different life lessons.  Most of all though, I think that it makes the point that parents hold their child’s success in their hands.  We are their educators, mentors and personal life coaches.  So, if we want our children to be compassionate, we must teach them compassion.  For me, I see activism and humanitarian work as a key lesson in compassion that cannot be avoided.

Whether it be participation in a protest (a seriously misunderstood term), writing a letter to a senator or fundraising for those in need, activism teaches our children an important lesson…that they are both capable of and responsible for creating change.

 

On that note, I thought it would be helpful to share some ideas for activism with your kids:

  • Participate in a youth mentorship program
  • Join an anti-bullying campaign with your local school
  • Raise awareness of pressing issues in your community
  • Commit your time to fundraising for the cause of your choice
  • Participate in politics by voting and debating important issues
  • Join a health cause for awareness, ex. breast cancer prevention
  • Find a cause that you’re passionate about and lead a demonstration
  • Participate in a class or workshop that grows your awareness as a family
  • Support a charity that aims to reverse poverty, racism, sexism and related social ills
  • Above all, be sure to set the example for your children by bringing them along
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Do you have another suggestion?  Please share your thoughts below.  :)

 

 

 

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  • Jen Marshall Duncan
    November 20, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    This is a great post, Chantilly! I love your suggestions for modeling activism with kids. It is good for them to see us using our democratic rights and learning to appreciate the freedom we have in the U.S. Many of my kids friends come from countries that don’t have such freedom and I want my children to appreciate the fact that they will have the right to vote, that they can protest, or petition for change. There might be a lot of problems in our country but those freedoms are really so important. GREAT topic!