Whether you attended the Women’s March by yourself, with a group of friends, were joined by your family, or were there in spirit and are inspired by last weekend’s events to take action, now is the time to turn your passion into action. Action takes on many different forms and if you’re a parent struggling with how to turn your own passion into action, start at home.
The way we interact with others, take action about the things we care about, and talk about issues that matter models passion and activism even to the youngest ages. We can also find age appropriate ways to broaden our kids’ horizons as we work towards raising compassionate kids whose love for family and friends extends to humanity.
Although too young to understand current events, kids ages 3-5 can certainly understand what it means to be a good friend, the hurt that comes with being mistreated or bullied, and the importance of showing compassion towards others. It’s perfectly appropriate for parents of preschoolers to focus learning around friendships and social-emotional learning because these topics are essential to your child’s development at this age.
Modeling the way you expect your children to act towards others helps reinforce the importance of kindness, empathy, and kindness and eventually leads to social awareness as they get older. These three critical elements provide a solid foundation for raising kids who care about others and will stand up for the people they love and the things they believe in.
Encourage your preschooler child to:
- Be kind to others by modeling what it looks like to those you know but also to strangers who are kind to you and helpful
- Talk about their feelings
- Be a good friend by listening, taking turns, sharing, and cooperating
- Use words to work through disagreements to figure out ways to compromise
- Stand up and speak out if they notice a friend is being mistreated by a classmate or get an adult to help
Tips and resources for parents of preschoolers:
- My post about 5 Ways to Teach Compassion, Empathy, and Kindness to Our Children features tips and educational resources perfect for preschoolers.
- Sesame Street. Seriously. Fast Company ran this post about How Sesame Street Taught Kids About Emotions Long Before Schools Caught on and it’s genius! After all, no one can argue the fact that “Simple songs like “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” encouraged children to be curious about their neighbors and appreciate their contributions to the community.” Kudos, Fast Company for a great article and roundup of favorite Sesame Street clips from YouTube!
Early Elementary Ages
Toddlers may be infamous for always asking why but early elementary aged kids have questions too. At this age they can form their own opinions and also start to realize there are injustices in the world. School food drives, church service projects, neighborhood lemonade stands benefitting charitable causes, and personal experiences heighten their awareness about issues.
As they start to realize that their young voices are powerful, it’s important to support them. Parents of this age group should know that these years are critical for our young change agents and we can help them grow by:
- Encouraging them to talk
- Taking the time to really listen to them
- Allowing them to be passionate
- Acknowledging their opinions
- Listening to their concerns
- Helping them understand how issues affect them
- Letting them know you don’t always have the answers but you’re there for them and willing to work with them to answer their questions to the best of your ability
Encourage your early elementary aged child to:
- Work together to figure out the right way to advocate for a cause they care about. How can your child best use their voice? Are there organizations out there that have a good reputation and have action items that you can use as part of their advocacy? Taking the time to research reputable organizations together using a site such as CharityNavigator.org provides important lessons about why it’s important to research causes and the organizations that support them. Talk to your child about why organizations that seem to have similar missions may go about supporting the causes in different ways. Also be conscious that money raised might not go to where you think it does.
- Get involved. After you’ve done your research, figure out how you want to volunteer your time to get involved. Kids this age are a great age to volunteer at family friendly nonprofits, write a letter to an elected official expressing their concerns, champion their cause via word of mouth, and fundraise by donating a portion of money from their piggy banks or encouraging birthday party guests to donate to their cause instead a bringing a gift.
Tips and resources for parents of early elementary ages:
- Reinforce the importance of compassion, empathy, and kindness by diversifying the books you have available in your home using this Diverse Children’s Books to Read after Seeing Hidden Figures on I’m Not the Nanny. Even if your early elementary aged child hasn’t seen Hidden Figures, Thien-Kim has curated a phenomenal list of books about women of color whose stories have been swept under the rug. Reading these books provides early elementary ages with a broader perspective on the contributions by women of color became agents of change through their actions.
- How to Inspire Giving at Every Age on #GivingTuesday and Beyond is my guide that provides helpful advice to families with kids of all ages about how to plant seeds about charitable giving, donate your time, and use your voice as an advocate.
- Wondering what to do after your child is empowered to advocate for a cause? I shared what I learned from Emily’s Ribbon Barrettes for Research fundraiser benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation through 5 Ways to Empower Young Philanthropists to Champion Causes They’re Passionate About.
- CharityNavigator.org encourages everyone to ask these 5 important Giving Tips questions before donating.
Tweens & Teens
Tweens and teens of the digital generation are content creators and consumers. Because they get their news from a variety of sources including their friends, social media, and traditional and online media sources, they often have their fingers on the pulse of current events.
Encourage your tween or teen to:
- Keep up with current events using trusted news sources. It’s easy to get fired up about something you hear about but it’s good to take a deep breath and do a deep dive into the issues to learn all sides before jumping into advocacy. Teach the importance of putting truth behind their advocacy by using facts from trusted sources of news.
- Look outside yourself as you champion your own causes. There may be things that your tween or teen wants to change but what benefits humanity?
- Determine how you will act. Once your tween or teen has identified a cause, help them figure out what their advocacy will look like. Will it be an email campaign, visiting your local elected official’s office, rallying friends via social channels, attending a march or rally? There are many ways to be involved. Help your tween or teen figure out what makes sense for them and their cause based on the amount of time that they have and the impact they want to make.
- Use your voice and social media presence to create positive change. Word spreads like wildfire among friend networks on social media which is why it can be an effective way to get the word out and rally others.
- Support causes they care about through their purchasing power. The simple act of purchasing can speak volumes when you purchase items that give back a percentage of the profits to trusted organizations.Encourage them to look for fair trade items that ensure fair wages for the individuals who make them or items that donate part of the purchase price to a cause. Encourage your tweens and teens to spend their hard earned disposable income wisely and also to donate to trusted organizations that support their cause.
- Be accountable. Holding yourself accountable will ensure that you dedicate time to your cause. Tweens and teens are less likely to flake when they establish a regular time to spend on advocacy work.
- Register to vote. Being able to vote in your first election after you turn 18 is a right of passage and one of the best ways to create change.
Resources for tweens and teens:
- How to Choose a Reliable News Source from Soapboxie encourages us to learn what to watch for and get information from as many sources as possible.
- Was This Your First March? Don’t Stop Now on The Cut helps those motivated by the Women’s March figure out what to do next to keep the momentum going.
- 3 Simple Ways to Use Your Smartphone to Change the World
- The United Nation Foundation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, (aka Global Goals) represent an overwhelming number of huge issues for one individual to tackle alone but together, our voices are stronger when we join part of a community championing change while encouraging our world leaders to do the same. The six question Global Goals quiz is a fun way to help you navigate the goals based on your own personal interests.
- ONE.org is a nonpartisan organization with 7 million members around the world who take action to extend extreme poverty and preventable diseases, particularly in Africa. ONE works to shape policy solutions that save and improve millions of lives and relies on the 7 million members to use their voices to organize, mobilize, educate, and advocate so people around the world have the opportunity to survive and thrive.
No compensation was received for this post. All opinions are my own.