Raising Kids Who Care About Social Justice
If you're like me, right now you are grappling with the events surrounding George Floyd's murder at the hands of law enforcement. My client sessions this week have echoed my hope that this moment is the seed change it appears to be. Moms are saying in various ways - the world needs to change, we need to be a part of it, and we have a calling to bring it into our parenting.
How is the calling to change showing up? Here are some of the things moms have told me this week:
"2020 is a dumpster fire. It feels like the world is falling apart."
"I had a conversation with my 8 year old about George Floyd, police brutality, racism, slavery...It’s hard to know if I’m telling him too much."
"I'm so sad....our world has been weighing heavily on me."
"I feel guilty. My privilege allows me to hide behind excuses, safe in my home."
"I'm frustrated with myself for being in denial; I should have known more sooner."
"How do I explain a black man being crushed to death to my young, impressionable boys?"
"It's devastating talking with a friend about her fear for her black son, sitting and hearing the history of oppression in our country..."
Our desire to do right by our fellow humans shows up first as rage, hopelessness and shame, and we want to use those feelings to inspire action. This is no surprise; humans tend to use negative emotions as motivation unless they choose otherwise, whether it's in collective outrage to create social change, beating ourselves up so we do the right thing, or even in how we get our kids to behave. It's easy to believe that terrible feelings are necessary to catalyze forward motion, but that is not true.
I share the same feelings as the moms I serve, and because I spend my time motivating and maintaining change for my clients, I know I need to move into something different if I'm going to do my part in raising a generation of justice-minded citizens.
We already know that in order to do this, our education must leave kids feeling empowered and hopeful, knowing they have power to influence their world, and believing the world is worth saving.
The moms I hear from want to teach and model social justice, to raise a generation that will keep pushing this momentum forward. We already know (from studies on education and activism) that in order to do this, our education must leave kids feeling empowered and hopeful, knowing they have power to influence their world, and believing the world is worth saving. Kids who feel scared and hopeless, on the other hand, are unlikely to become forces for change. If for no other reason than this, managing our own minds and emotions is crucial; the feelings that would stymie our kids from being a force for good, will also stymie us in teaching them to be that force.
So, while this topic differs from the typical things I write about, my invitation to you as a mother is unwavering. I am encouraging my clients to manage their minds before they dive into action with their children. And it will be no surprise that I'm working with them to create and hold onto feelings of conviction, belief, hope, security, power and vision. In fact, many of them have chosen to go back to the exercises on guilt, motivation and mindset that they already completed on parenting, and revisit them through the lens of race and civic duty.
What they are discovering is that they don't need rage, shame and guilt to get where they want to go. They are realizing they can use their values and integrity not just to fuel themselves and their parenting, but to hold space for people to whom feelings of safety and hope are not available right now. In this way, those with the unsought and unjust privilege of being able to access what others cannot, can help keep this wave of change in motion.
If you have a fire in your belly to take action, AWESOME! Transform that from the fire of rage (which burns hot and fast) into the fire of belief, which is a slow, and far more powerful burn. Bring this fire to your mothering; with it you can raise your children to be a force for change and be in love with life and humanity at the same time. Use this fire to create a family culture in which civic duty is a cornerstone of your kids' lives. Do all the things with your kids: protest, share educational movies and books, write a letter to your representatives, walk a new neighborhood, make a YouTube video, support a minority business, boycott a racist one...and do it all from hope and belief.
While I see the tragedy and abomination that are in front of me, I also see that the arc of history is going in the right direction. The lesson I take from that is two-fold:
1) Change is happening now; the world and humanity are actually miraculous.
2) The biggest impact we have is via the rising generation in our society.
The point isn't "It's fine; don't worry about it." Rather, the point is that our power and mandate lie in belief, future focus, and vision...and mothers hold this precious future in their hands. The world is counting on us!!!