6 Ways To Engage Young Children In Activism

by Katie Vance
Jewel Samad / Getty Images

Over the past few weeks, I have loved watching this wave of social justice activism. People are finding their voices and speaking out against decisions being made by our government that threaten the lives of many thousands.

I myself have been so fired up, but all I ended up doing was getting caught up in a couple different Facebook arguments. I really wanted to get out and be there with all the people in my community who were on the streets and making their voices heard. There is only one problem: I have young children. Well, they aren’t really a problem; they are actually pretty adorable. They just make it hard to participate in any kind of activism.

Gone are the days of getting decked out in my Planned Parenthood gear to participate in a feminist march after work. Now I have to provide my kids with stability and other basic things like time, love, food, and shelter. And thanks to daycare costs, I also have no money to give to organizations that are fighting the good fight. So I have been searching for creative ways to engage and wanted to share some ideas with my fellow activist parents on how to stay involved.

1. Call, write, tweet, record a video, or even send pizza to your representatives.

Whatever it takes to have your voice heard. I know this has been shared all over social media, but it is true that a little bit can go a long way. Your representatives are expected to act on behalf of the will of the people in their community, so it is important that the voices of the community are heard. Calling is the best way to reach your representatives, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Include your kids in your messaging and send a card they drew or a video you made together.

I even heard of one woman who had pizza delivered to her representative with a message on the receipt sharing her views. I know what you are thinking, “As soon as I try to do any of these things, one of my kids is going to lose their shit.” Let them! The lives of parents are real and important, and it is okay for that to be heard by your representatives. Do what you can when you can and just keep trying.

2. Participate in a virtual march.

One of the coolest things I saw recently was the Women’s March on Washington offered an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in a virtual march to show their solidarity even if they couldn’t physically be at the march. This is amazing in terms of accessibility for differently abled individuals, and I do not encourage typically abled individuals to appropriate that space.

However, encourage local and national marches to consider a space for a virtual march for people with disabilities as well as a separate space for parents or anyone else unable to attend in person. If an event or a march comes together organically and too fast to create a virtual march, ask a leader of the march to stream the event live on Facebook or any other live streaming app so that you can show up, share, comment, and show your support.

3. Take your kids with you to speak to a representative or attend a protest.

This one is tricky as I know parents are concerned about the possibility of protests becoming unsafe and violent. However, if a march has all the right permits and the leaders of the march have included the police in their planning, there should not be a problem. In fact, every protest I have ever attended has been well-thought-out and incredibly peaceful. The moment I felt even a sense of unrest, I grabbed my kids and hightailed it out of there. Now keep in mind that often when a protest becomes violent, it is the result of a militarized police force and not the fault of poor planning. Always be prepared for anything to happen, and have a plan in place if something does occur.

4. Encourage local parents to connect.

Find other activist parents in your community and get together, even if it is just to vent about how freaking tired you are (kids, am I right?). Share ideas, thoughts, feelings, and dreams for the future of our children. Just find your activist village and live there for a little while. Stay connected. We are going to need each other over the next several years.

5. Talk to your kids.

Talk to them about empathy and how it feels when people are left out. Talk to them about their bodies, teach them the correct words for anatomy, and help them understand that their body belongs to them. Read books about friendship and caring. Validate their feelings and encourage them to respect and learn about the feelings and differences of others. Keep talking to them, over and over again. They will be the next generation of activists, and they will be proud to know you were on the right side of history. Hopefully, they will follow in your footsteps. A great resource to find books on these topics is A Mighty Girl. They are always sharing excellent ideas for books on social justice topics for kids of all ages.

6. Practice self-care.

Make sure you put on your own oxygen mask first. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and parents know some days are better than others. On a good day, keep up the work and continue to resist. On a hard day, it is okay to take a break from the world and just be present with your children. They need you just as much as the community does. Take time for yourself too. Turn off your social media and the news and just do whatever makes you feel good.

Parenting is hard. Activism is hard. Keep it up, and stick together. Don’t forget that the steps we take today will make a difference for the future of our children.