4 Ways Parents Can Empower Kids to Make a Difference

Kids have the inspiration; grown-ups can offer the support they need.

Parker Barry

It’s amazing that kids can and do change the world, despite the fact that they have essentially no financial or political power. What inspires kids is heart, but what empowers them is adult support.

“My hope is that all parents and all teachers will help children to realize their potential for good for both their own benefit and the benefit of all,” says Zoe Weil, founder of the Institute for Humane Education.

Use these four tips to help champion your kid’s cause:

  • 1. Tune in. Acknowledge kids’ anger when a friend is bullied at school or their sadness when they see an image of a neglected dog on TV. Avoid telling them not to worry, but also don’t overwhelm them with more information than they need to know. “We run the risk of creating more despair (and potentially promote apathy) among our children if we share too much too soon,” Weil says. “On the other hand, children know so much today without telling them anything ourselves.” Simply listen, reassure and empower them to do something, however small.
  • 2. Offer ideas. “A parent can help that child make a difference in an age-appropriate way. If a child feels anger about an injustice, a parent can channel that anger toward expression that helps, like meeting with their legislator, writing to the head of a company causing harm or starting a school club,” suggests Weil.
  • 3. Provide logistical support. Sometimes age restrictions will limit what kids can do, so parents can sign up to host the bake sale, coordinate the petition or complete legal paperwork, as kids help every step of the way.
  • 4. Remind them, it’s action that counts. Kids can become disappointed when the politician writes back with a polite but obviously non-responsive letter; when people say “no” to a request for donations, or when their effort to start a school club doesn’t attract as many members as they envisioned. Reassure them, and let them know that they are your hero! As Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”


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