We are living in a very political time. Especially here in Portland, there are lots of rallies, marches, and other opportunities for social justice. But the decision about whether to bring your children along is a tricky one. Here, Shannon Berger-Hammond of Families for Peaceful Protest, gives her tips for engaging in social protest as a family.
By Shannon Berger-Hammond
There is a fundamental need to show our children what we do when we see that something is not right: Not right on the playground, not right at work, not right within our government.
Our organization, Families for Peaceful Protest, believes that the only way to make lasting social change is to start socializing our children in a different way. One that embraces our freedoms and choices. One that does not make space for bigotry and hatred, but does make space for intersectionality and inclusion.
Part of this socialization is involving children in protesting, social justice and action, and the discussion about what is happening in our society. You can have amazing discussions with your children just making signs together. Getting out and joining the community for social justice will empower them to stand up against the bully at school, the employer who is discriminating, the elected official that is trying to silence the voices of his or her constituents. This lesson in civics is something that can never be taught in a classroom.
I want my children to look back and remember participating in civil discourse and change. I want to teach them to be leaders, to stand for what is right, and to always have the strength to stand not only themselves, but also for those who are oppressed. As a mother of three, I feel empowered when I see my children standing next to me fighting for human rights. I see the looks on their faces, the courage in their voices, and it gives me strength to keep going, to keep fighting for them.
Here are some tips for successfully protesting or getting involved in social justice with children:
- Prepare your child for the upcoming event. Let them know that there will be a lot of people and you need to stay together. Ensure they understand why they are there. Encourage sign making and thinking of chants to use.
- Write your child’s name and your phone number with permanent marker on their arm. Or create a tag to put around their neck (although subject to getting ripped or torn off). Discuss with the child why this is there and when to use it, but also to not show every person who passes by.
- Have an identifier. Attach a balloon to their wrist, wear a silly hat, something that helps identify your little one in a crowd. Our family has a little call we yell out and we all respond when someone calls out. It sounds kinda silly, but it helps in finding a wanderer.
- Create a plan if a child gets lost. In our family we have a rule that you stay put at the last place we were together. If that’s at a march then tell your child to move out of the flock and get to the side. Find another parent to help them by calling the phone number on their arm.
- Do your research. Who is putting this rally/march/protest on? Do you know people who are going? Are they bringing their kids? If so suggest going as a group – safety in numbers. Reach out to the organizers for suggestions on bringing kids.
- BE SMART! If at any time it starts to feel unsettling, just leave! It really is that easy. If there are people infiltrating the event you can generally tell right away. Just go.
- Reach out to Families for Peaceful Protest on Facebook and we can organize together! If you see an event and think a family presence should be represented let us know! We are here to help mobilize and encourage families to get activated!
- Don’t be afraid. Be strong and stand for your rights, your children’s rights, your neighbor’s rights. Your First Amendment Rights!!
- Have FUN!! While often the reason for protesting isn’t always ideal, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the moment. Being with others in a common place, with a common message is invigorating! Your children will thank you. They will remember marching with their parents or loved ones for the rest of their lives!
- We truly are Stronger Together. Community events, protests, rallies, and marches are amazing ways to meet like-minded people. Take the opportunity to build community, make new allies, create another event or find ways to get together for other social justice issues.