In recent years, many of us have become more engaged in community affairs and the political process. We have learned who represents us in Congress and maybe even attended a town council meeting. We have called our elected officials, spoken up on social media or possibly attended a rally. The underlying lesson that has emerged is that our voices should be heard, our opinions are worth sharing and our votes matter.
How can we share this lesson in activism with children and teens so they know, at an early age, that their voices count too? It’s not always convenient to include children and teens in our activism. Meetings and activities might take place during school hours or in the evenings while children are otherwise occupied. These circumstances may preclude including our children in the process and so we forge ahead on our own or with friends, leaving our children behind.
Instead, we should look at activism as an opportunity to educate our children and show them that we are fighting for the issues we believe will make their lives and the lives of others better. When it is age and subject appropriate, have your children and teens accompany you to rallies and town council meetings. Make calls to legislators with your children in earshot. An added bonus of engaging our children in advocacy is the chance to model respectful assertive behavior as opposed to divisive tirades.
What is the appropriate age to engage your children and teens? That’s a decision based on what you think your children can handle without adding undue anxiety to their lives. Some issues lend themselves to youth engagement better than others, such as the environment or food insecurity.
We have the opportunity to raise a generation that understands that speaking up is just something we do because it’s the right thing to do. Let’s not squander it by leaving them behind.