4 Actions you and your kids can take to be civically engaged
By Gabby Cushman
This November, our monthly theme is civic engagement. This topic ties into almost every social justice issue we’ve been teaching our children about so far! Civic engagement is any activity someone does to make changes in their community, country, or the world. Suppose you’ve learned about a social or political issue and wanted to take action, whether that action was something like voting or donating to an organization. In that case, that is you practicing civic engagement. There are numerous ways for you and your little ones to get involved in your local community and make a positive difference. Here are four starting points to becoming civically engaged:
Learn about the civic, social, and political issues in your community/country
Although it’s essential to stay educated on various social justice issues, specific issues may affect your local community or country significantly. They could be triggered by political movements, particular circumstances within an area, or the dominant culture in the area. For example, reproductive rights are being discussed in the United States this midterm season due to the overturning of Roe v Wade earlier in the year. When teaching your kids about civic engagement, determine what social issues may primarily affect your local community. You can find this information through community social media pages, local news stations, or social and political leaders within your area. Pinpoint some issues that your family or classroom wants to get involved in.
Educate your little ones on why voting matters
Voting is a significant aspect of civic engagement. It allows individuals to let their voices be heard on what politicians they want leading them and what issues are most important to them. Voting is the change we can make on issues that often feel out of our control. It can feel frustrating when it seems like elected officials don’t listen to the communities they’re supposed to represent, and this can lead to many thinking that voting doesn’t have an impact. It’s necessary to talk to kids about these concerns and why the feeling of frustration is valid while also emphasizing the good voting can do. Get your little ones involved with learning about upcoming elections. You can point out election-related advertisements while you’re out and about or involve them while researching the different candidates and issues on your ballot. The more you showcase your involvement and encouragement of voting to them, the more likely they’ll see the importance of voting once they are old enough to do it themselves.
Volunteer with an organization you love
Volunteering is another excellent way to make a positive difference in your community. There are often many individual, family, or even online volunteering opportunities to assist with organizations that impact your fellow community members. When I was a freshman in college, I learned about a domestic violence shelter that served the city my university was located. That summer after my first year, I volunteered at the shelter and helped facilitate their weekly peer support groups. As an advocate for survivors of domestic violence, this opportunity was one of the most impactful moments of my life. Finding options for your little ones to volunteer with a cause they care about will show them the direct effect of civic engagement on individuals and the community. Just be mindful of what groups you and your kids want to provide a service for. It’s essential to do anti-bias work before volunteering with a marginalized group you are not a part of to avoid bringing harm to these groups.
Raise awareness about causes you believe in
There are many ways to raise awareness about the social issues you and your little ones care about. You can raise money for an organization that advocates for your cause, share information about your cause on social media, talk to the people in your life about it, or use creative outlets such as writing or art to spread awareness. It’s crucial to teach your learners to speak up about what they believe in. Encourage them to talk about laws or policies they find unfair or opportunities to improve any social justice issues they’re learning about. They can have these conversations with their peers and the adults in their lives to create change together.
The most important thing to remember about civic engagement is that it goes beyond specific actions you take. It’s about bringing a whole community together to make a change that improves people’s lives. The more we encourage civic engagement amongst our little ones and even fellow adults, the closer we get to stronger and safer communities overall.
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