We hear a lot about the importance of having a social conscience. But, what exactly does it mean to raise a socially conscious child in these turbulent times? While it’s not necessarily about sending them to march on the streets tomorrow, it is about helping them process the most recent protests' underlying issues. Teaching your children to be socially conscious also doesn’t mean that they need to come to the same conclusions as you do about specific topics. However, it does help if you give them the tools and information necessary to make their own choices and form their own belief system.
The reality is that we should all want our children to be socially conscious and encourage them to listen to and respect other viewpoints. In our current emotionally charged society, many things have taken a political undertone. However, this blog is not about raising children to have a particular viewpoint; it’s about raising children who are compassionate, willing to help those less fortunate, capable of knowing right from wrong, and speaking up when they see or experience injustice. Simple task, no? Well, no one ever said that parenting was easy! However, BCT Partners hopes to make it a little less daunting by offering six tangible ideas that you can use to help your child develop into a kinder human being.
Foster intellectual curiosity – People who have a general curiosity about the world and adopt the habit of being lifelong learners tend to have compassion and understanding. Through their interest in other people, the planet, and animals, they understand how all the puzzle pieces that make up humanity fit together and interact. It’s important to encourage children to realize that education is not merely what happens in the classroom. Immersing oneself in a wide array of experiences and concepts creates a more significant opportunity for acquiring knowledge and understanding.
Talk to your kids about current events and encourage self-expression – Don’t try to sweep uncomfortable news under the rug to shield your children. Reassure them so that they don’t become frightened about what’s going on and allow them to ask questions and give their thoughts on the topic. Chances are they already know more than you realize. Open the floor for them to share what they think and why and where they get their information to have informed discussions with them about media, influence, accuracy, and bias.
Address social advantages and disadvantages – Explain how opportunities differ for people based upon socioeconomic and geographical differences. Point out to them that life experience differs very broadly, so they should consider and respect the fact that others may not share their experiences, which likely influences how others think, act, and feel. Children need to understand that everyone does not start on an even playing field.
Help your child experience diversity – Give them opportunities to read books and play with toys that celebrate differences in race, religion, nationalities, etc. The more that they realize that we are all human beings despite our differences, the more they will accept and embrace varying perspectives.
Speak up – If you see or hear something racist or unfair, talk about it with your children and explain why it’s a problem. As Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “We will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Volunteer – Find local charities that could use help and let your child pick the place that they want to volunteer. If children see first-hand the lives of those that are less fortunate, they will learn the importance of helping those that are less fortunate.
In summary, social consciousness doesn’t necessarily develop organically. It thrives when parents, educators, and a child’s “village” of influencers encourage curiosity and an open exchanges of ideas. It requires effort from parents, teachers, family, and friends to foster an environment of gratitude and empathy. Dr. Beatrice Fennimore, who focuses her research on educational issues central to social justice and equal opportunity, believes that parents are the key. She sees parents as instrumental in helping their children unlock a social consciousness. "The more children are attuned to fairness, justice, and equality, the better the future community will be," Fennimore tells the digital media platform Mashable. To summarize her recommendations, parents must be the change they want to see in the world in order for their children to follow in their footsteps.