3 min read

If children are part of your world, you know how astute they can be. It’s common for kids to be aware of climate change, gun violence, animal abuse, and other big problems. They know about war, natural disasters, poverty, and prejudice. Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, or other caregiver, you’re sure to find yourself navigating conversations on social issues. These dialogues are opportunities to help young people understand the realities of our world and empower them to work towards change.

Media exposure, conversations with friends, classroom discussions, and the views you share at home all contribute to kids’ growing social conscience. Energetic and caring, young people are keen to make a difference, but not always sure how to start. They turn to the adults in their lives for answers. Why do unfair things happen? Why doesn’t someone do something? Their empathy will likely lead to the questions that most make you perk with pride—What can I do? How can I help?

I set out to answer “how to help” in Make Your Mark, Make a Difference: A Kid’s Guide to Standing Up for People, Animals, and the Planet. Written for ages 10 and up, it offers readers tools to become informed and effective activists. You can support your child’s interest in making a difference with these three basic steps:

  1. Work together to learn everything about the issue.
  2. Find out if others share your concerns, look at their proposed solutions, and decide whether you prefer to join other activists or lead your own campaign.
  3. Consider strengths and abilities. How can participants best contribute?

 Let’s take a closer look!


Step One

Talk to your child about problem-solving, and how the first step to making change is gathering information. Get a pad of paper and together make a list with these headings: What We Know, What We Need to Find Out, What Others are Trying.

Suppose your child has learned a local shelter is too full to accept any more dogs or cats. “What We Know” may not depict the full picture, so your child’s first job is to verify information. Side by side, you might do an online search of respected news sources and visit the shelter’s website.

Step Two

Once you have basic details, explore “What We Need to Find Out.” This is where you narrow down the data. Who runs the shelter? What’s the source of the problem? Is it a lack of funds, infrastructure, volunteers, bylaw restrictions, or something else? This is a good time to find out if others share concerns about the situation. Have any groups formed to tackle the problem? List their activities under your heading: “What Others are Trying.”

If you feel aligned with a group’s style and solutions, consider whether it would be effective and satisfying to volunteer with them. If you or your child prefer a different approach, step three will help you figure out how that might look.

Step Three

Now that your young activist has a wide-angle view of the problem, it’s time to narrow down the options and prepare for action. Pull out your list and add a new heading: “What I Can Do.” Work together to make a varied list of possible solutions rather than dive into the first idea. Our first thoughts are not always keepers, but they provide an important and useful start.

After you have at least a dozen possible approaches, narrow down your choices to the ones most likely to make the difference you want to see. Make sure the ideas are practical and achievable! Solutions will depend on your child’s age, schedule, personal skills, and support from home. If you’re willing to take part in next steps, you might suggest another heading: “Help from my Family!”

If you’d like to dive deeper into the topic of activism, Make Your Mark, Make a Difference: A Kid’s Guide to Standing Up for People, Animals, and the Planet will provide the details your young activist needs to be the most effective changemaker.


Joan Marie Galat is an international award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including The Story of Malala Yousafzai, Dark Matters: Natures Reaction to Light Pollution, and Solve This! Wacky Challenges for the Genius Engineer in You. She is known for presenting complex information to young readers in approachable and engaging ways. A professional speechwriter, former radio host, and frequent presenter, Joan has traveled across Canada, and from Australia to South Korea to deliver literacy-building presentations based on her books. Joan lives in Edmonton, Canada.

 


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