Five ways to raise kids with a social conscience

This Mother’s Day, blogger and mum Kathleen Zwiener looks at ways we can raise our children to have a social conscience.

As I lay in the hospital bed after the birth of my first child, stroking the soft down on his newborn head, realisation swept over me: every person wrongly imprisoned, every asylum seeker locked up in offshore processing, every girl denied an education, is someone’s child.

I knew this before in the abstract, but in that moment, as I lay in a darkened room inhaling that intoxicating newborn smell, I had never felt more motivated to fight to make the world that he would grow up in a better, more just place.

In that moment, I thought about the things I wanted to do with my beautiful son to encourage him to care for others and to have a social conscience.

1. Talk about it

Since becoming a mum, I am even more sensitive to the sadness in the world. A part of me wants to forever shelter my sons from the darkness. While I hope to be honest with my children as they grow, there are positive ways to share a passion for human rights with our littlies.

The book We Are All Born Free is a sweet interpretation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for children. Reading it together is such a lovely way to begin the conversation about human rights and social justice.

2. Do good

When I was little, I watched my parents like a hawk. Everything they did – from picking up rubbish to bringing a meal to a neighbor who is unwell – made an impression on me and helped me to think outside of myself.

Collecting food for those in need, or volunteering for an organisation that you are passionate about is a great way to model empathy and begin teaching your child how to live a more ethical life.

3. Buy ethically

The amount of stuff you ‘need’ for a baby is overwhelming and it’s easy to forget that many items are made by children working in horrible conditions.

Ethical Clothing Australia is a great way to connect with brands that protect the rights of people involved in the production of your clothes. Purebaby has lovely organic children’s clothes, made with social responsibility in mind.

By being open with my children about shopping with a conscience. I hope to connect them with the people involved in the making of the things we wear, play with, and consume every day.

4. Write a letter together

My relationship with human rights began with writing letters to people being denied justice or freedom. The physical process of putting pen to paper made me feel connected to issues I cared about and the people who were fighting to change the world.

As my sons grow, I hope to share this with them. I’d like to create the opportunity to discuss injustices but also to teach them how they can be involved in making the world a better place. A great way to begin this conversation today is by signing this petition to stand with India’s Adivasi Indigenous people, kicked off their lands to make room for business development.

5. Celebrate the people who have paved the way

An important part of my human rights journey has been learning about the amazing women and men who have come before in the fight for justice and those who are already doing essential advocacy all around the world.

I am inspired by photographer Jamie Moore who took a series of photos of her daughter dressed as heroes who have changed the lives of women today. This is such a creative way to begin a dialogue about human rights heroes, and to give my children role models in their own journey with social justice.

In the coming years, as my children become interested in Elsa or Batman, I will show them that an ice castle isn’t a prerequisite for embracing your power. I hope to teach them that not all crusaders for justice wear a mask or a cape. In fact, most of the superheroes I know are armed with a pen or a megaphone, courageously standing up against the bad guys, and fighting for the rights of sons and daughters everywhere.

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