2017 brings a new political landscape for those living in the United States. There are those happy with election results, those who are unhappy, and of course there are those who are uninterested or neutral in their reactions. For many people, however, there are concerns with this new administration that include women’s rights issues, the potential of losing health insurance (and therefore affordable health care), environmental concerns, economic worries, and much more. There is an upswing in people wanting to be involved in political activism and social justice. If my own personal social media is any indication, many people are unsure how to best go about participating at a local, state, or national level.
For most of us, adding yet another thing to an already busy life is difficult. For many mothers – especially those of us with young children –the idea of adding more to an already full plate is an overwhelming idea. Fortunately, there are many ways that we can involve ourselves with important causes while raising children.
- Educate your children: If it’s important to you, it’s probably important to them, too. Even very young children can understand the importance of loving one another, taking care of the earth, and making sure people have their needs met. While the full explanations of many actions can be scary (it certainly would not be age appropriate to explain sex trafficking to a three-year-old), knowing that their parents are taking action to make their world a safer place can be comforting to a child, and having an opportunity to help make that happen is empowering. Finding books, videos, and even examples of other children activists is a simple Google search away.
- Make it a family affair: If your children are old enough, or young enough, they can participate in political activism with you. If you have a small infant or toddler, you can wear them to safe protests and bring them to marches in good weather. If your children are old enough to make these walks or stand at these events, bring them along. Of course you have to make the right decision for your child(ren), but many times marches and protests are very family friendly. Some of my favorite event signs have been created by children. Encouraging them to voice their opinions can help them develop strong voices. As Anne Frank said, “How wonderful is it that no one need wait a single moment before beginning to improve the world.” Our children don’t need to wait until they reach voting age to start making a difference!
- Working behind the scenes: Some children won’t do well in large crowds or during long days. There are always ways that you can be involved with large events without being there for the big day. Organizers are always looking for volunteers for lots of jobs that can be done from home, or before the event. Sign-making parties are one fun way to help, while allowing children a safe place to play or contribute. Volunteers across the nation recently knitted hats for the Women’s March in Washington, held the day after the inauguration. Match your activism with your talents and passions, and you can probably find a way to participate.
- Make calls and send emails: you don’t need to leave your home to help make positive changes in our world. There are many groups and pages on social media that have come about just to send out important “Calls to Action.” Many of these involve calling or emailing a senator or representative to show your support or opposition of an upcoming vote. These phone calls are almost always answered by aides or voicemail, so making them when the kids have gone to bed isn’t any less effective than a 9-5 call. Emails can of course be sent any time of the day. If this kind of action calls to you, find your local Facebook groups and get started!
- Follow your children’s lead: What issues are important to your children? There have been many viral videos of young children who have strong opinions and voices about important issues, such as 6-year-old Henry Marr’s tears and statements that “the planet is going to be wrecked!” Of course our children often take up our own agendas, but if you listen you will hear what matters most to them. Find ways to not only involve your children in your important causes, but ways that you can get involved with theirs.
- Remember that most things begin at home: Activism isn’t only about national issues. In fact, Roberto Vargas writes about “Family Activism” – the idea that the connections we form with our family and friends, and the actions we take to strengthen those connections, are the most important kinds of activism we can be involved in.
Family Activism: Empowering Your Community, Be- ginning with Family and Friends, Vargas, 2008.