Talking to your kids about the real events that shaped the 4th of July

Talking to your kids about the real events that shaped the 4th of July

By Shelby Kretz

Happy 4th of July! 
If you are celebrating, you may be struggling to talk to your kids about this holiday. After all, you may have just talked with them about Juneteenth, the holiday that celebrates the freedom of Black Americans. 

How do we explain to kids that the 4th of July is the celebration of supposed freedom for Americans that happened almost 100 years earlier than Juneteenth
This history is of course fraught with violence, war, slavery, and racism. While you may be ready to dive into some of those topics with your kids, it can be difficult to know where to start, and how to keep it age-appropriate.  
Here is a sample script for jumping into these conversations in age-appropriate ways. As always, you know your children best, so use your judgement to determine what you want to share with them. 
For younger children: 
"The Fourth of July is a special day when we celebrate the birthday of the United States. On this day, a long time ago, the people who lived here decided they wanted to be their own country, with their own laws and leaders. They wrote a special paper called the Declaration of Independence to tell the world about their decision.
But it's important to know that not everyone was treated fairly back then. Some people were not free and were treated unfairly because of racism and hatred. It took a long time for everyone to be treated equally. We also have another important day called Juneteenth, which celebrates when all people in the United States were finally free.
Today, we celebrate the Fourth of July to remember our country's history, the progress we've made, and to work towards making sure everyone is treated equally and with kindness."
For older children: 
"The Fourth of July is an important day for our country because it marks the anniversary of when the United States declared its independence from Britain. The people who lived here wanted to govern themselves and have their own laws and freedoms.
However, it's important to understand that not everyone experienced the same freedom and rights. Many people, particularly those who were Black, Indigenous, and people of color, were not treated fairly and faced discrimination and slavery. Juneteenth is another important day that celebrates the freedom of Black Americans in the United States.
Today, we celebrate the Fourth of July to recognize both the progress we've made as a country and the work that still needs to be done to ensure equality and justice for everyone. It's important to remember our history, learn from it, and work together to create a future where everyone is treated with respect and fairness, regardless of their race or background."

By acknowledging the reality of racism, the connection to Juneteenth, and the importance of diversity, children can develop a more comprehensive understanding of American history and the ongoing journey towards an equitable society.

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