It’s time to make sure our children grow up on the right side of history.
In these trying times, being a parent is both stressful and scary. On one hand, our planet is facing all kinds of potential obstacles, from World War III to global warming. Our government is verging on a dictatorship, and all over the world people are taking to the streets to demand the equality they were promised by the Constitution.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little terrified for my children. But I also recognize that there is nothing I can do about a lot of these problems. If I want to create real change for the future, it starts within my own home, with my own children.
All of the racists and bigots of this world had parents. The origin of their racism was likely passed down through their family, but the responsibility of that racism lies squarely with the individual. As a compassionate mother, I feel sorry for people who were raised to be racist. However once you become an adult, it is your job to systematically dismantle all the negative patterns of behavior you learned growing up, in order to become a well-rounded person and decent human being.
This is unrealistic however, since most people don’t want to look that hard in the mirror, especially after years and years of bigoted beliefs and dogma. SO, the only thing we can collectively do about it, is decide to raise our own children to be ‘woke’. If we raise the future generations with compassion and understanding, we can literally change the world, and create a planet where racism doesn’t exist. Here are a few ways you can teach your kids to be ‘woke’, but keep in mind that truly being ‘woke’ means understanding that you will never actually be ‘woke’, because you must wake up every day knowing that there are always more lessons to learn, and be willing to learn them.
Here are a few ways to raise your kids to be ‘woke’:
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Teach them about Morality. At the most fundamental level of parenting, we are supposed to teach our children right from wrong. This sense of morality will affect every aspect of your child’s development into their adulthood. Morality however, is about knowing what is actually right and wrong, regardless of what the laws are. Obviously we want our children to obey the laws, but they must also know the difference between whether those laws are right and just, or a matter of selfish politics and/or systemic racism and bigotry.
Teach them to question authority. The George Floyd protests have truly opened the nation’s eyes to the fact that police brutality is way more common than we previously believed. Just because someone is elected, or hired to a police squad doesn’t necessarily mean they have your best interests in mind. Teach your children critical thinking, so that they can assess for themselves whether or not to give authority to authority figures. And correct them, when they try to call their second grade teacher a fascist for demanding punctual homework assignments.
Take them to volunteer. One of the best ways to teach your kids to open their eyes is by showing them how other people live. Volunteering at a homeless shelter, enrolling them in classes at a community center that isn’t in your neighborhood, and sending them away to camps and programs that encourage diversity are three great ways to show your kids a different side of the world.
Encourage open discussions about tough issues. The most important thing you can do is provide a safe space where your children feel comfortable to communicate openly. Encourage them to ask you questions about tough issues like racism, homophobia, and even politics. Don’t be afraid of these conversations, because answering them with honesty will end up creating a new dynamic of communication with your kids that will last into adulthood.
Don’t sugarcoat the world. Your children have the Internet. They know what is going on, whether or not they understand it. Sugarcoating the world may shield them from sad thoughts and negativity, but it will also make them sheltered, and unequipped to deal with the real world, once they are out on their own. Tell them the truth, with an optimistic spin. Optimism is a very handy tool for children to learn.
Encourage their philanthropy. If your child wants to make change, whether that be a school petition or a lemonade stand for #BlackLivesMatter, encourage it! We need to raise children who know that their own contributions to the world, no matter how small, are valid, noble, and necessary.
Teach them compassion. Compassion seems to be the missing element in all these discussions about the state of the world. Many politicians are only interested in staying in power, regardless of how it affects the common man. Many police precincts are only interested in protecting each other, instead of the people, who they were hired to protect. Southerners are holding onto their confederate flags and ‘heritage’ regardless of the fact that it literally represents the face of racism. None of these people are practicing compassion. They are not putting themselves in anyone else’s shoes. They are viewing the world from their own myopic lens, where there is no room for reason.
Compassion is the answer. We must teach our kids to see the world through eyes of all colors.
If we can do that, the next generation will grow up with a love and understanding for each other that could potentially be the bridge between the broken world we live in, and the beautiful future that our children deserve.