Encouraging Youth Civic Engagement: 5 Tips for Parents & Caregivers

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Written by: Amber Harkey

child dressed as superhero

As we watch the news, scroll through social media and read through articles, we constantly see examples of people using their voices to make a difference and create change around the world. We just recently saw how the people of Puerto Rico used their voices to remove a governor that did not live up to their standards. Many of those protesting on the streets in Puerto were young people. We also saw climate strikes all over the world that were led by youth.

There are so many benefits for youth that involve themselves in civic engagement including higher educational attainment and income levels in adulthood, as well as building community, fulfilling social needs, and changing policies. As a parent or caretaker, you may be wondering how you can encourage your child to use their voice and skills to create a better community and future for themselves and others. Look no further. Below are 5 tips for raising civically engaged youth.

1) Talk with your child about current events.

man reading newspaper
By talking about current events, we are able to help our youth become comfortable and used to being in the know about what’s going on in the world around them. This may also spark a conversation about something they are passionate about and something they would like to change. 

2) Help your child find a program to help them hone their leadership and decision making skills.

chess piecesPart of civic engagement is being comfortable with sharing your voice and making decisions on ways to make change. Look in your area for youth leadership programs and include your child in the search.

3) Help your child get involved through volunteerism to encourage civic engagement.

painting a houseCivic engagement is all about helping to make a change for the better in your community, and by volunteering they are able to become more connected to those in the community around them.

4) Take action together.

hands on top of one another in a gesture of team workTeam up with your child to make a change. If there is a protest on a topic that you both agree on, head to the protest together. If there is a volunteer opportunity that your teen is interested in, support them by volunteering alongside them. There are many ways that you can take action as a team! 

5) Take your child with you to vote each and every time you go so they see the process and understand how it works.

casting a ballotVoting is a very empowering process, as you are using your voice and opinions to shape the world around you. As youth get older, it will become second nature when it is time for them to hit the polls and use their voices and opinions for change. 

Questions for extended dialogue (for caregivers): 

  • What is a way that you can get started in encouraging your child to become more civically engaged?
  • Do you remember a time when you made a change, big or small, using your voice? How did creating that change make you feel?
  • What youth-centered volunteer opportunities are in your area and which ones would you like to be a part of with your child?
  • How do you think your child specifically could benefit from being involved in civic engagement?
  • What barriers are there to helping your child become more civically engaged? How can you overcome those barriers?