Have you seen this video? An adorable 6-year-old activist, Henry Marr, gives an emotional plea to his mother about wanting to save the environment. If you’re not one of the nearly 17 million people who have seen it, then watch it right now. You’ll thank us.
Endearing, right? How can you not be moved by this kid’s passion for the environment?
At YEA Camp, we know that as a loving parent it warms your heart to see your kid display such enthusiasm for an important cause. We also know that it can be upsetting to see your child feel so helpless over wishing they knew how to make a difference.
Don’t fret, loving parents, at YEA Camp we specialize in empowering children and teenagers to make the world a better place. That’s why we’ve devised a helpful list so you can nurture your courageous kid’s activism.
1. Make It Fun
The cause itself may be super serious, but your kid’s fight for the cause doesn’t have to be.
Did someone say delicious vegan cupcakes? How about assisting your child in holding a bake sale to raise money for their cause?
Tapping into their artistic or creative talents, using social media, or getting friends involved are other great ways to make activism fun. Your kid’s much more likely to stick with their activism if they have a good time doing it.
2. Connect With Organizations
Now that your child is inspired to care about a particular cause, it’s important that he or she understands that cause and sees how others are tackling the issue.
The best way to learn is by introducing them to respected organizations that are leading the way on their respective issue.
Don’t have time to do all that research? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a helpful cheat sheet of amazing organizations that are fighting for the environment, LGBT rights, human rights, animal rights and more.
3. Listen To Your Kids… Really Listen
Children are full of wisdom if parents take the time to listen to them, and we’ve got two epic examples of parents who do just that.
In this first video, a young child in Nepal finds out that his parents are taking his beloved goat to be slaughtered, so he does everything in his power to get his parents to spare the animal’s life. His tenacity and kindness are an inspiration to behold. Imagine the trauma if his parents had ignored his pleas.
In this second viral video, a toddler in Brazil has a heartfelt debate with his mother at the dinner table about the ethics of killing and eating other animals. His points are both innocent and poignant, as only a child can articulate.
These videos aren’t depicting children throwing bratty tantrums. These kids are sensitive souls who realize that the adults around them are harming animals, and it upsets them. The parents are respectful enough to listen to their children’s merciful pleas and agree not to harm the animals. These are beautiful moments of compassion caught on camera.
Whatever issues inspire your kids to express their passion, your support empowers them to think for themselves and to pursue their compassionate nature to be a caring person.
4. Introduce Them To A Mentor
A great way to learn about a subject is to seek guidance from someone who specializes in that field. Help your child find an expert who’s willing to advise them on their journey of discovery.
This is an area in which we really pride ourselves at YEA Camp. Our talented staff is comprised of highly qualified professionals with teaching credentials and expertise in youth development, as well as accomplished former campers like Shelby, with much wisdom to impart. We give each camper the counseling they need to get their activism off to the right start.
5. Join Them!
What better way to encourage your budding activist than to join them in their activism? Not only can this make it more fun (see #1) and double their impact, but it also creates a supportive family culture, where it’s understood that people care about others and stand up for what they believe in. Plus, you’ll definitely have more to talk about at the dinner table than what they learned (or didn’t learn) in school.
6. Well, Join Them… Within Reason
No kid wants their parent hanging out with them all the time. Give them space to follow their passion independently as well. Sometimes that could mean just giving them a ride somewhere, helping them manage their schedule, or asking if they need any help.
7. Say, “Yes, You Can,” Not “No, You Can’t”
See all those demoralizing insults Simon Cowell spewed at aspiring singers on “American Idol”? As a parent, do the opposite.
If your kid tells you that he or she wants to reduce homelessness in your town, don’t discourage them with details about how difficult it’s going to be. Celebrate that they care about such a crucial cause, and help them set goals for bringing about that change. Twelve-year-old Megan has raised thousands of dollars with her school club for homeless people in Boston.
Kids need someone to tell them to dream big, and to help them strive for their goals, not set low expectations.
8. Help Them Believe In Themselves
All too often our worst enemy is ourselves. Kids can be really hard on themselves, shooting down their own great plans before they’ve even given them a try, because they’re afraid they’re not up to the task. As their parent, you can give them the confidence they need to tackle any undertaking, no matter how impossible it may seem.
Providing a safe and loving home environment, encouragement in their endeavors, as well as support, perspective and understanding when things don’t go as planned.
9. Set A Positive Example
Be the type of person who rescues a baby elephant who is stuck in a mud hole. Your kids will be better people with a role model like that. Whether it’s rescuing an animal (have you noticed we like animals at YEA Camp?), donating money to a nonprofit or candidate, volunteering, or conserving, the lessons your kids learn from watching you will last a lifetime.
10. Teach Intersectionality
This one’s a Level 5 on the empowerment scale, but it’s important to note that oppressive institutions—racism, sexism and so on—are interconnected and you’ll expand your child’s understanding of the world by helping them make those connections.
Does your child care about the environment? Great! Teach him or her the ways in which pollution disproportionately affects poor people and people of color, or how the environment is negatively impacted by the meat industry.
Does your child want to stop bullying? Fantastic! Teach him or her about how LGBT youth are nearly twice as likely to be bullied than their non-LGBT peers.
We need the next generation of advocates to be aware of the interconnection of the many different issues we face and to be allies for these different causes.
Best Parent Of The Year!
Thank you for being your kid’s greatest champion! We need more brave young change-makers in this world, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
You’ve raised a compassionate kid who wants to make a difference. It would be our great honor at YEA Camp to meet your wonderful young activist (the camp is open to kids ages 12-17) and guide him or her to follow their dreams. At YEA Camp, they’ll be surrounded by like-minded peers and adults who want to help them, and they’ll develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to take action on what really matters to them.
Follow the above tips (and send your kids to YEA Camp or nominate someone who you know would love it!), and they’ll be well on their way to achieving great things, because any parent should support a kid who’d really rather visit a broccoli farm than support animal abuse at the circus.