In celebrating our nation’s liberty this summer, we should ask ourselves: How can we help our children become responsible citizens?
Remember that home is every child’s first community. What children see there influences greatly how they interact in the broader communities of their neighborhood, school and, ultimately, the world.
Adults can have an enormous impact in helping young people become good citizens of their communities. Here’s how:
» Set a good example by your own actions and attitudes, and talk about the importance of communities.
» Stay informed. Keep up with community concerns, beginning in your own neighborhood and extending to global issues.
» Take young people on trips to the post office, library, and police and fire stations.
» Help children understand the relationship between home, school and community.
» Foster sensitivity and understanding of various ethnic groups by encouraging friendships with all members of your community.
» Take part in community organizations and activities, such as the PTA, to show children how members of a family can be good citizens.
» Let children see you using a variety of sources for your information — friends and neighbors, newspapers and magazines, radio and television, and responsible sites online.
» Be sure to vote. Let children go with you to the polls, or watch you fill out an absentee ballot, and explain why it is important to vote in local, state and national elections. Explain that at age 18 he or she will have this right and responsibility, too.
» Find at least one cause or need in your community where you can volunteer your help. Let children know why you think it is important and how you are trying to help. Let children join you if they want. Opportunities range from helping other children or seniors, to helping animals or an environmental project.
» Find and share success stories with children. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by problems in the community or the world, but individuals can and do make a difference.
» Explain what you feel it means to be an American.
» Talk about the importance of joining forces for the greater good. That’s what makes this nation great.
Responsible, well-informed citizens are the backbone of democracy. Helping our children become good citizens benefits all of us — today and into the future.
— Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools.