I started crying at the playground yesterday. Not my best look, but it happened. As I watched my happy, healthy five-year-old navigate the monkey bars, zoom head first down the slide and impress his friends with his version of the floss, I felt my heart break. Watching my silly little boy play was such a stark contrast to what I had just seen in the news — immigrant children separated from their parents, being detained in inhumane conditions, sick, hungry, and scared.
I relived the horror I felt when I first saw the image of a young father and his baby girl wash to shore, neither breathing, after fleeing a country where they knew they weren’t safe. It all flooded over me; the stories that I had tried not to think about because it was just too damn painful. My son saw me wiping my eyes and hurried over to see what was wrong.
”Mommy, are you okay?”
“Yeah buddy, I just got a little sad and mad and also I feel happy and grateful. Weird, huh?”
“What made you sad, Mommy?”
Ughhh. When is the right time to break the news to your kids that there is a whole, huge world outside of our protected neighborhood playground? A world that, while beautiful and exciting, can also be scary and devastating. I guess now …
“Well, Bud, there are some kids who can’t be with their parents right now and it just makes my heart hurt.”
“Well then let’s help them.”
Such a simple, pure, innocent statement. How could I refuse?
As an adult and a lawyer, I’m aware of things that I can do to help — donate time and money, call my elected officials and voice my outrage, educate myself, VOTE. But, what were some accessible ways that I could involve my son in my efforts? Here’s what I came up with:
1. Speak Up
It is important to be vocal about our feelings regarding this issue. We need to discuss our concerns, voice our emotions, demand change AND we need to do this where our kids can hear us. Despite what they might lead you to believe, our kids are listening. Bring your child to protests and marches. Show them how a group of individuals can unite to form a voice too loud to ignore. Teach them that there is power in standing up for what you believe in.
2. Lights for Liberty
On July 12. 2019, Lights for Liberty, a coalition of people, many of whom are mothers dedicated to standing up for human rights, will come together to host a nationwide vigil in support of the children and families that are or have been detained. Check out the website to see if there is an event near you. https://www.lightsforliberty.org/
No event in your community? Create your own! Even if it is just you and a couple neighbors, join together a take a moment to show love towards all the families affected. Show your child how simple an act of compassion can be.
3. Host a Fundraiser
This doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Grab your kids and put together a lemonade stand in your neighborhood. All the profits can be donated to a charity working to assist immigrants. Check out the organization Immigrant Families Together for a list of other fun ways you and your children can fundraise. https://immigrantfamiliestogether.com/how-you-can-help
4. Pen Pal
Get your family involved in a pen pal program. First Friends of New Jersey and New York can help you get involved with their pen pal program that works directly with immigrants who are being detained. https://firstfriendsnjny.org/volunteer-2/
Show your children how a few kind words can make a world of difference to a person. Explain to them what a tremendous gift it is to let another person know they are seen, they are valued and they are important.
5. Teach Empathy
In order to avoid history repeating itself, we have to teach our children how to change the future. By demonstrating empathy, love and compassion to our kids we are laying the foundation for a more united world. Not quite sure where to start? Check out the Teaching Tolerance website for tons of resources that will show you age appropriate ways to begin teaching your kids about social justice, the importance of challenging bias, and exploring diversity.
Still feeling overwhelmed and helpless? Well, just start with hugging your babies tight, then grab them by the hand and get out there and change the world, even if it’s just a little bit at a time. After all, we’re all in this together.