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Missteps Parents & Caregivers Make When Engaging Kids in Activism

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

You may not be following the lead of those closest to the problem.

As a Black mother, my lived experience puts me at the core of issues like racial injustice, pay inequity, workplace discrimination of mothers, sexism, and more. But the truth is that, as a cis-gendered, able-bodied, mixed-race woman, sometimes I’m not the one most impacted by injustices like homophobia, ableism, transphobia, and colorism. As a parent, it’s important for me to model for my kids that following the lead of those closest to the problem sometimes means taking a step back and listening. It means following the lead of those most tapped into the solutions needed to fight the injustices they face. One of the most important things to remember when getting involved in activism as a family is to get acquainted with who has already been doing the work. It’s important to follow the lead of local organizations that fight injustice when it’s out of the news and the work is needed on an ongoing basis. Do research about organizations in your community. Reach out to them and ask what their needs are. Many of them are surviving on a shoestring budget and can use some volunteers to help shoulder the work. You might be surprised by what their needs are and how you can use your skills to support them.

You may not be incorporating it into everyday life.

Parents and caregivers should incorporate activism into everyday life. Don’t wait for an issue to be in the news before taking action — incorporate it into everyday life, from the books your kids read, to the music they listen to and the shows they watch. You also need to model activism in your daily life. When you as a parent or caregiver incorporate it into your everyday life, you’re modeling for kids what that actually means. As adults, you can be an activist in your own community by getting involved in the local PTA or local parenting groups. You can use these spaces to advocate for centering racial equity in the school community and encouraging the school to teach about fighting to end injustice. For white parents and caregivers, you can examine the spaces you occupy — from your friends to your community to your family — and seek to address areas where whiteness is being centered and where injustice and racism are given a pass. As a family, don’t be afraid to add activism into your schedule, as you would soccer or tennis or music. There’s no shame in that schedule! Try different activities like encouraging kids to write letters to local editors or your local school board about injustices they see. You can make signs for a protest and kids can use their art supplies to make them beautiful. You can organize a protest on your street or in your local town. Find ways to make it a seamless part of your regular life as a family.

You might not be de-centering your ego.

Activism is a service to the community. It’s work in service to people who are marginalized. Some people may come to activism from a place of deep pain after a personal tragedy. For others, it’s all that they know because they grew up in service to others. Others may find themselves getting active because of an awakening that is sweeping the country or the world. If you find yourself in this latter group, it’s important to decenter your ego as you seek to be in service to others. This is especially important if you are white and/or hold privilege. Don’t forget that this work needs to be led by people whose lived experiences leave them no choice but to fight daily for liberation. Practice and model for your children what it means to leave your ego at the door. If you’re new to activism, you might be coming at it with bright new ideas. Innovation is important but, if you benefit from white privilege, this isn’t the place for you to center yourself and your attempts at solutions. This is a place to listen, learn and follow.

Before you go, check out these celebs who talk to their kids about racism:

Read more on: engaging

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