Hi Nature Lovers,
Regardless of where you seat yourself politically, I think we can all agree there are massive changes going on in America right now. These shifts affect our lives both locally and globally, causing possible anxiety, stress, and LOTS OF QUESTIONS from our curious children. Children of all ages are AWARE of the changing political climate, especially after the media-driven elections, the well publicized protests, and the constant political commentary and updates on the radio and television. They are watching, listening, and learning. Let's make sure they are taking the right values and skills from this time and not following in the footsteps of our current political leaders.
Several parents have voiced concerns to me about HOW MUCH INFORMATION to give their children regarding what many see as ethical atrocities occurring in our government and around the world. Where do we start the conversation and where should it pause until our children get older? Obviously, the conversations will vary according to each family, but a great place to begin is with an investigation of the values important to you and your children. Once a stable ethical structure is established within your child, the specific facts they receive about what is actually occurring will have a healthy way of being digested. Fear comes from feeling powerless, a lack of empathy, and being blind to our ultimate connection with others. Unfortunately, this is the kind of world the current administration is cultivating in the news and through its policies. A world driven by FEAR. If we can transform this FEAR into COMPASSION through educating our children on the core values this nation was built on - justice, equality, understanding, and service - we are taking a step, maybe even a LEAP, in the right direction. So, where shall we begin?
- READ. READ. READ. Find books that teach about inclusivity, compassion, service, justice, and equality. Find books about political and community leaders, artists, activists, musicians, and scientists who work towards creating a peaceful, diverse, and just world. Now more than ever, children need to see leaders who are driven by compassion instead of greed.
- TAKE ACTION TOGETHER. Show your children what is important to you through your ACTIONS everyday. This action could be buying a person experiencing homelessness a meal or standing up for someone who isn't being treated with kindness. Join local groups/organizations/committees that work towards a common political or social goal in your neighborhood. Invite your children to write letters with you to local and federal officials about changes you wish to see. Go to rallies and protests with signs you created together. BE PRESENT in the resistance with your child and show them that when one voice joins many other voices, your message can gain POWER.
- SPEAK WITH YOUR HARD EARNED DOLLAR. Donate to an organization working to achieve goals your family believes in. Teach your children how they spend their money makes a difference not just in their own lives. Instead of purchasing a toy this week, can your child give that money to someone in need?
- NORMALIZE MINDFUL POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS. If you read or hear something in the news that makes you angry, empowers you, or even brings you to tears, talk about it with your child. Model productive, respectful political discussions with (or about) people that may not agree with you on various issues. Educators, parents, and caretakers must balance the aggressive, divisive, fear-based rhetoric being displayed by many political leaders with open-minded, empathetic, respectful discussions. Our children need to understand that the insults, bullying, and total lack of respect from our current president are not acceptable ways to express yourself.
- TEACH EMPATHY. What does it feel like to be in another individual's situation? This is a powerful question to ask your children everyday. Hand-in-hand with empathy is often the ability to really listen to another person. Model for your child how to LISTEN ... maintain eye contact, have a calm physical body, ask questions when they are done speaking, and put away distracting technology.
- BE TRUTHFUL. If your child asks, tell them the truth. Young children don't necessarily need all of the upsetting details of a situation but they do deserve to hear the truth. If you need some time to figure out the best way to answer a difficult question, tell your child just that. Use your resources and consult with fellow parents or teachers about ways to approach the topic. Above all, DON'T LIE to your child.
Oh, and while you're out changing the world, give your children kisses, hugs, and/or high-fives for being so damn brave. They are actually setting an example of hope and joy for US!