Amplify Youth Voices

May 18, 2018 | Raise Empowered Kids

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In the climate issue, it’s hard to make a kid your enemy. Kids hold the moral high ground.

My friend Eliot Schipper

No one has more right to talk about the future than children—the people who will be here long after we’re gone, forced to confront the climate beast we’ve unleashed.

One thing parents can do is support kids who want to express their feelings and opinions about how things are going. Kids can’t vote, but their future is being shaped now by decisions our generation’s making. Adults—particularly our representatives—need an earful from the young people they’re impacting, and in my experience, kids have plenty to say about what kind of world they want to live in and the ways leaders are failing them. Nowhere is that being expressed more poignantly now than in the youth-led movement for gun safety.

So ask young people what they love and want protected. Ask what activities bring them joy, and what places are special to them. Ask what kind of climates they want in school, in their neighborhoods, and on the global level, and what they think leaders should do to create safe ones. If they’d like a larger audience than your family, help them find venues, whether an essay in English class, a speech for the debate team, a commentary in the local paper, a YouTube video, a speech for a rally, or testimony to your city council.

If you have . . .

Three minutes and twenty-eight seconds: With children, watch this video of kids speaking and leading the 2015 march, on the eve of the Paris climate talks, to demand a legally-binding and science-based global agreement.

Fifteen minutes: Brainstorm with kids about what matters to them and one simple way they’d enjoy expressing themselves. In his book, We Rise, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez describes planting sunflowers outside a coal plant with his local Earth Guardians group, which earned them press. After the coal company yanked out the flowers and left them on the ground to die, the kids returned to give the sunflowers a funeral, which got even more press. To reach local media and others, send out a press release. (For a how-to, see my book’s appendix, or look online for samples).

An upcoming rally or climate event: Encourage your kids to attend. Help them raise their voices and make art or posters. Ask organizers to feature youth speakers; if they don’t have even one and don’t know any, find them a child in your community who would be excited to read a short letter to the world asking for protection of something they love.

Involve kids in art builds before events, as we did before our 2015 protest:

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