I believe that one of the most important jobs as a parent is teaching my kids kindness. While we may want to shelter our children from the realities of the world, raising socially conscious kids is one of the many ways in which we can take charge and help change the world.
Raising socially conscious kids and guiding them to show empathy and become aware of social issues helps them to forge the future in which they want to live in. It's about raisings kids to rise above and be compassionate leaders, community minded and caring members of their families and friends.
Veronica Sherman (http://veronicasherman.com.au) is a social activist, blogger and award-winning powerhouse behind Happily Made that provides training and financial empowerment to Cambodian women through her ethical toys. She is also the mother of four children who are fearless and strong in their desire to make the world a better place. I asked her about her top tips on how she raised socially conscious kids.
It's easier than you think to raise kids who actually care
I'm often asked about parenting and as eager as I was in my early years as a mother to share my advice I am now hesitant knowing full well that there is no formula when it comes to raising children. Just when I thought I had figured something out one of my four children would prove me wrong and I was back to square one. Parenting articles are only ever useful if used as inspiration to find your own way of raising your children. Only you know the individual quirks of your child, the mood of your home and your current restrictions in being the parent you strive to be.
Raising Socially Conscious Kids.
1. Encouraged my kids to ask questions
2. Brought them along to rallies
One of our favorite memories as a family is when we went along to our first rally to support Wikileaks. My kids were thrilled when our sign that said Don't Shoot The Messenger was getting so much media attention but nothing compared to us walking down Rundle Mall in Adelaide chanting and clapping and feeling so connected with hundreds of strangers who shared a common cause. Since then we have made lots of banners and gone along to numerous rallies to show our support for marginalised people and worthy causes. It's usually just one or two of my children that come along these days but it's by far one of my favorite things to do as a mother. My days of belonging to a religious institution are long gone so having an opportunity to come together for a shared cause and feeling united with others is very special and I love that my kids can see the value of being counted as someone who spoke out against injustice.
3. Supported their attempts in making a difference.
I love seeing a child busking at a market and impromptu lemonade stalls set up on a footpath. When my own kids would come up with an idea it was always tempting to help them out a bit too much and eventually their passion fizzled because I had unintentionally trampled on their project. When we lived in Cambodia my then 11 year old daughter started making 'perfumes' out of leaves and flowers with her friend on a visit back to Adelaide. They wanted the money to help Cambodian children.
They named their project Three Jars Full and ended up baking biscuits to sell in bags with ribbons and the money they raised was used to buy educational toys and eventually a cow for a poor family in our village. In hindsight I wished I had been more aware that my daughter was really excited about making the biscuits and selling them and it was my own suggestion that she came along to distribute the gifts to the toyless playgroups in remote villages. There really was no need for us to be there and I now try to be more aware of letting my child lead with where the idea goes instead of suggesting something that is my own agenda.
4. Silenced the Tall Poppy voice in my head and allowed my kids to shine.
I was recently at a Sustainability Day for primary school children and was blown away by how passionate these kids were about the environment. They had so much practical knowledge about how to look after our planet. Thankfully there was an event for them to participate in and be surrounded by like minded children. Unfortunately there are not enough of these opportunities for our children to shine and it's important for us as parents to facilitate a way for our kids to have a platform to voice their passions.
My friends probably don't realise that every time I share something positive that my kids are doing I still have to go through a process of silencing that voice in my head that tells me that I'll just be seen as someone who is trying to get attention or someone who is bragging about her kids. In the same way that I try to be aware of doubt, mother's guilt and a long list of other self destructive thought patterns that are so deeply ingrained I really want to make sure that I don't stifle my children's message because of my own fear of causing a fuss.
Also, as much as I curse screens for infiltrating every part of our lives I am very quick to acknowledge that so much good can come from it if used wisely. Out of my four kids it's my youngest who is the most passionate about using Facebook as her platform for social change.
She is so motivated to see justice for men seeking asylum in Australia and is constantly coming up with ways to spread the word and raise support for them.
5. Created a platform through social media
As much as I curse screens for infiltrating every part of our lives I am very quick to acknowledge that so much good can come from them if used wisely. Out of my four kids it's my youngest who is the most passionate about using Facebook as her platform for social change. She is so motivated to see justice for people seeking asylum in Australia and is constantly coming up with ways to spread the word and raise support for them. If she stays on this trajectory I know that she will be able to do so much more once she is old enough to have her own account and will leave me in the dust with her desire to change our government's cruel laws.
Thank you so much for sharing that with us Veronica! Raising socially conscious kids is a combined and conscious effort of family, friends and the wider community to create and nurture an environment of empathy, gratitude, kindness, leadership and love.
We'd love to hear your experiences about the kind of things you do with your kids to help them be more socially aware. Share in the comments below.