We tend to think of politics as being for adults. But how do adults become engaged citizens who take part in their community? They start as children, learning from parents about the importance and benefit of volunteering, voting, and understanding the challenges and opportunities in their community. There’s so much that parents can do to raise children to be active community members. In addition, some of the many skills that are learned along the way, include public speaking, networking, teamwork, strategy, and communication.
Want to learn more about how kids can be involved? Listen to this episode of About IBD Podcast on how gastroenterologist Dr Meenakshi Bewtra got her kids started in acvitism.
10 Ideas for Activists of Any Age
- Talk to your kids about the issues that matter to you. They are forming opinions and ideas as they grow and you are their first teacher. Explain in age-appropriate terms about your family’s values and why it is important to be an engaged citizen and to vote.
- Take your kids with you to vote. Bring them to the polling place, show them how to navigate the business of voting, and make sure they get a sticker! I brought my children to my polling place from birth, in a stroller or a baby carrier. They don’t have school on election day anyway!
- Sign up for the email lists for your local representatives. If you don’t already know who they are, finding them will only take a few minutes with this site: How to Contact Your Elected Officials. You’ll be directed to search engines where you can enter your address and get contact information for your federal and state representatives. All representatives have their own web sites. Sign up for their email list and look around to see what other ways they stay in touch with their constituents. The email list is invaluable in learning about local events where you can bring your kids. Show kids the emails and go over them together.
- Connect with your representatives on social media. Many representatives have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even platforms that skew younger, like SnapChat. Follow their feed and you’ll find out what they’re doing, how they’re voting, and what matters to them. They may post videos or other content that is interesting to kids. Teens can follow their representatives from their own accounts and interact with their representatives as well.
- Take your kids to marches and rallies. Passionate about a topic? Showing up with your body is the best way to demonstrate your support. Kids are almost always welcome at these events but you will want to plan around your little one’s schedules if there are a lot of speeches (that is, mostly standing around listening). Pack snacks and quiet activities! Be prepared to leave early is necessary, but showing up for any length of time is important.
- Go to local meetings. This could be anything from a meet and greet at the local coffee shop to town hall meetings to debates. Again, you’re the best judge of your kids’ stamina for these kinds of events, so plan around kid schedules to have the best outcome for everyone.
- Volunteer. There are volunteering opportunities for every age group in your community, from helping at the local food bank to tutoring to participating in a park or beach clean-up. Find your local charitable groups and offer to lend a hand or donate materials or funds if you can.
- Write letters. You can send an email, a postcard, or a letter to your representatives, both local and federal. The voices of the next generation are important, so their stories of how they’re being affected by what’s happening in their community matters.
- Read books about our government and activism. What better way to learn than from the stories of those who have come before us. Hit your local library and ask a librarian for book recommendations (or search the library web site). This is a great tip for adults, too, especially when inspiration is needed or to get a brush-up lesson on how a bill becomes a law!
- Visit the offices of your elected officials. You can start by touring town hall and work your way up to a visit to Washington DC. Reach out to your representatives and find out what opportunities are available for children to see first-hand how their government works.