Today’s kids are more plugged into social issues than ever before. Thanks to social networks, the internet, and a greater awareness of social injustices, activism is starting younger and younger. La’Kita Williams, mom, and founder of CoCreate Work, was a recent guest on the Moms You Meet Podcast, to discuss the benefits and challenges of raising socially responsible kids. “Their ability to speak up, take actions, make a commitment definitely seems more significant now for sure,” La’Kita shares. “[My daughter] is often the one bringing up the conversations with adults.” The kids are leading the way, but raising activists is a family affair.
If you want to get started with raising your children to be more socially responsible, there are three key things to keep in mind:
1. Activism is a family commitment.
2. Make sure you take breaks in order to avoid feelings of overwhelm.
3. Get comfortable with not knowing all the answers.
Read on for more in-depth guidance on this approach, and check out Episode 22 of the Moms You Meet Podcast.
The Family Commitment
Teaching our kids to be socially responsible starts at home. As most parents know, kids won’t always do what you say, but they will do what you do. Modeling those behaviors goes a long way. “One of the challenges that I’ve definitely had to think more about is, ‘How do I show my work?’” La’Kita says. Start by defining your family’s values together and talking about the issues you find important.
If you have small children at home, keep things simple and focused on family. Co-host, Alison Hightower, explains her plans for engaging her young children in the process. “My primary focus is teaching them about how their family is their first society that you’re living in. How you can impact your family, how contributing in our household is good practice for how you will contribute in the future in your school and out in the world and in your workplace.”
With older children, parents can involve them more in the process. Include tweens and teens in the conversation. Find out what issues matter to them. Then make a plan together.
When guiding children in activism, it can be easy for parents and kids to get overwhelmed. Social justice issues are often challenging to process and some children and families may be more sensitive to certain issues. As co-host, Aubry Parks-Fried, says, “It’s particularly overwhelming now and maybe that’s just the convergence of all of it right now.” With a 24-hour news cycle and endless connectivity to the world via our devices, it can be hard to separate ourselves from the issues we care about. Make sure your family takes a break from the work often, giving kids a chance to just be kids. Unplug from the news, the internet, and devices. Reassure younger family members that these problems are not solely theirs to solve. And remember to remain hopeful.
Finding Answers Together
Children are not alone in this journey and neither are the adults. It’s key for parents to show their kids that they also don’t know everything. La’Kita often tells her kids, “I don’t know enough information. What do you know right now and we can look at it together.” A lot of times, parents feel the need to have all of the answers, but modeling that vulnerability—of not knowing everything—reinforces the idea for our kids that they don’t have to have all of the answers right now. This is a learning process, and we’re going to learn together.
Thankfully, there are a growing number of resources available to guide your family’s journey towards being more socially responsible. “We use the library so much. I feel like we’re very fortunate the time we’re in right now, where there are more and more children’s books being published on those topics and making those topics accessible to kids. Every week I’m trying to bring home those new books,” Alison shares.
Getting involved in activism with your children can be a great way to connect while making a difference in your community. Making a commitment as a family is a great way to practice your family’s values. Let older kids lead the journey, but support them by encouraging breaks for self-care and carefree play. Finally, keep in mind that it’s ok to not have all the answers. Work with your kids to seek out experts and resources to guide your journey.