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White and black children stand with the American flag and a sign that reads "one nation".

Raising Civic-Minded and Engaged Kids

The worldwide pandemic and racial inequity have sparked unrest across our nation and the world. As citizens, many of us struggle to find solutions to address the pandemic and to continue to work toward a more just and equitable society. When we turn on the news or check our social media feed, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but we are also observing democracy at work.

My 12- and 13-year-old granddaughters came to visit this past week. I had not seen them in several months due to COVID-19 restrictions. As we reconnected in real time, I was surprised by the sophistication in their thinking about pandemics, protests, and politics. I began to see them as engaged citizens with something of value to contribute. I love their energy and insight. Wow! It seems like we were just playing princesses last week.

When we give our children the opportunity to contribute, it is amazing what they have to offer. Here are a few key ideas for building a foundation of civic mindedness in all of our children:

  • Define a good citizen as someone who contributes to the well-being of the group. For young children, their groups may include family, school, and neighborhood. As they grow, their groups expand and include more people. They are part of their state, country, and global communities and they begin to recognize how their actions influence and impact others. The groups include everyone regardless of race, religion, gender, or cultural beliefs.
  • Practice democracy by listening to each other and voting during family or school meetings.
  • Help them write a letter to a local government official.
  • Take them with you when you vote.
  • Share age-appropriate news stories, both challenging and inspirational with your children and talk about them.
  • Listen more than you talk. This provides them with an opportunity to explore their own ideas.
  • Take your children to peaceful protests, or read books that address difficult topics like racism.
  • Help them understand the importance of social distancing and other safety precautions and how they show respect for others.
  • Model having civil conversations with people who have different opinions or political views. You can respectfully agree to disagree, and often can find some common ground.
  • Ask them to think of ways they can contribute to the well-being of neighbors or friends. This could be walking a dog, shopping for an elderly neighbor, using kind words, or standing up for someone who is being excluded or bullied.
  • For older children, ask them how they can contribute to national or global consciousness. Recycling, sponsoring an endangered species campaign, and joining a peaceful demonstration are all great examples.

Raising our children to be good citizens empowers them to be change agents and gives me hope for our collective future.

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About Michele Tryon, CCLS

About Michele  Tryon, CCLS Michele Tryon, CHKD community outreach coordinator and parent educator has worked with children and families for 30 years, providing services in the hospital, home, school and community setting. Michele is a Certified Child Life Specialist, a Certified Positive Discipline™ parent educator, a nationally recognized trainer/consultant for Nurturing Parenting Programs™ and co-author of The Nurturing Program for Parents and Their Children with Special Needs and Health Challenges©.