How do you create a fair and humane society if you don’t include the children in the process? Who will carry the torch? Who will guarantee its sustainability? How will the next generation learn about social responsibility if we always keep them away from the course of action?
I’ve always believed that raising kids did not only imply ensuring they are well-fed, warmly clothed and get a good educated (school) but also, and most importantly, it’s teaching them how to become responsible human beings; of their person, home, friends, environment, the earth and all living beings around them.
I engage my children in different social actions that Raffi and I participate in since their early childhood. From protest actions against globalism and poverty in Montreal to genocide recognition rallies to AIDS awareness, to environmental actions, to picketing in front of government for injustice in the army and to marches stoping violence against women. Sometimes only one of them accompanies me, other times two or all, depending on how I manage.
|Yeprad during the army protests|
As years passed by, their responsibilities grew during those actions. At first, they were all bundled-up in a wrap on my chest, watching with interest different activists, smiling to some, dozing off on chants and rhythms of resistance. Then when they moved from my chest to the stroller, they were able to communicate better with all the participants, socializing, smiling, singing, while their stroller was used as a stand for flyers, posters flags with demands and mottos. After a while they started walking, marching, distributing flyers, lighting candles during vigils, learning about issues, developing empathy towards other people with whom they were not necessarily related. Now, my oldest is almost 12. Marches and protests are not enough, discussions follow which make it even more interesting and developing further their analytical thinking about things happening around them in their immediate or distant environment.
|Amassia during march to stop violence against women|
Some will say “oh poor kids, they are learning about the bad things in the world too soon”. I say they are learning about solutions on how to counter those “bad things” in the world, so they don’t fall into depression or apathy later in their life. Engaging them early has many benefits; some include the following:
- Social responsibility becomes second nature to them
- They will develop a strong basis to become mature adults and aware citizens
- They will know how to defend their rights and the rights of others
- They will learn the value of tolerance, peace and solidarity
- They will learn to voice their opinions against injustice
- They will develop strong leadership skills and self-confidence
- They will get a lot of fresh air and sun (during the outdoor actionsJ)
- and most importantly, they will learn on how to take care of themselves and others and try making this world a better place for all.
|Varanta distributing flyers during march|
Today Armenia faces many problems. One of the challenges is the silence of its youth and a general apathy among them. Most university students that I used to encounter when our center’s work was based in the YSU campus were their complete lack of interest in politics and social justice. They used to complain a lot about corruption in the educational system, lack of work, poverty, discrimination but when the time came to find solutions and raise the issue; most of them would turn their back and say as the older generation: “nothing will ever change”. Is this what we want to teach our kids? To surrender, to quit, to avoid, to leave?
While on the other hand, I see more and more young parents include their kids during social gatherings and actions and start believing that not everything is lost.
|ready for the environmental action|
I didn’t want to concentrate on the risks of involving kids in the process for 2 reasons:
1- -Most of you will mention that at first and will only focus on it
2- The risks are relatively low compared to the great benefits.
Amassia is 11 right now. Last year, she started a recycling initiative in her class because she didn’t want trees to disappear. Today, she explains to her peers why they shouldn’t go to the Dolphinarium in Yerevan and how badly the dolphins are treated there and by encouraging them it will get worse.
Varanta recycles her own paper and creates nice greeting cards for her friends.
Vayk is in the process of learning… mimicking his older siblings.
Yeprad knows very well the faces of all the policemen standing in front of the government building on Thursdays during the action for the army. He always tests their human side by spreading his most generous smile at them.
As for me, I try to answer all their questions and sometimes find solutions in them. I believe that changing the world starts in you and your own family first.
|during aids awareness day|