We know from our civic engagement research that Generation Z is one of the most civically engaged generations, with nearly 40 percent saying they have taken five or more civic actions in the past year. But still, many said they have taken less.
We know today’s civically engaged person may express their desire to do good through the purchases they make, what they share on social media, and what nonprofit organization to support as a volunteer or donor. But often times, using one’s voice to speak up on an issue can be the most intimidating step to take, especially for a young person.
It may be difficult for young people to see how they can use their voices and make themselves heard. Parents, family members, and educators can play an important role in supporting children and young people in using and developing their voices. No matter who we are, we all have the ability to influence those around us – from sharing information on social media to speaking at a local town hall meeting to simply having a conversation at the dinner table with family.
Here are some ideas for supporting children and young people in your life to use and develop their voices, along with insight from the Points of Light Youth Council.
- Listen. Sometimes, for young people especially, the challenge is feeling that their voices aren’t heard or don’t make a difference. Listening and responding when they raise and advocate for issues that they care about can help encourage them to develop their voice.
“The youth are not waiting until they get older to make an impact in the world. We are making moves and your support is always needed. My advice is to give us room to grow and listen to our needs. As youth we see what’s going on in the world and we want to do our part to make it better.” – Khloe Thompson, Youth Council Member
- Offer guidance. There are as many ways to use our voice as there are causes we want to support. Learning what issues and causes matter to us and how to advocate for them is a constant process, particularly for young people. Help them think through ways to use their voices safely and effectively.
- Provide tools and resources. These tools could include books or other materials about how to use your voice, as well as resources on the causes and social issues they care about. A great place to start is the Voice issue of Civic Life Today, which includes numerous resources, including a Youth and Family Corner with tools geared toward a young audience.
“Sometimes the best way to get youth involved…is to show them the ultimate impact. If they know what they’re working towards, they are more motivated to make a difference.” – Adom Appiah, Youth Council member
- Lead by example. Perhaps one of the best ways to support young people in using their voice is to use your own. From more formal ways like advocacy to informal ways such as having conversations with family and friends, there are many ways to model using your voice and to support the young people in your life in using theirs.
“Leading with the next generation of changemakers has allowed me to found two service projects, each giving me the chance to use my voice to benefit others for the past decade — all because my mom encouraged me to believe in myself and showed me what it meant to serve others.” – Eleanor Schoenbrun, Youth Council member
For more on using your voice, including resources and action plans, check out the latest issue of Civic Life Today.