Five Tips for Parents
Parents play an important role in affirming what their children learn about our American history and freedoms. The American Bar Association encourages adults to explore with children the legacy of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, our past struggles, and the challenges we face as a free society. Here are some tips for talking about these ideas in your home.
One: Make our freedoms relevant.
Talk to your children about how key documents in American history – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights – continue to affect their daily lives. Here are some examples:
Listening to music, browsing the Internet, and attending religious services are all activities protected by the First Amendment’s freedoms of expression and worship. Discuss how these activities might be different in the absence of these freedoms.
When you see a news account of a criminal trial, discuss why you think our Constitution guarantees jury trials for people accused of a crime.
Talk about current events and political debates as a family. Help you child understand what it means to live in a representative democracy and how an individual can make his or her opinion heard.
Two: Be honest with your child.
The history of freedom in America is one of progress and struggle. Help children understand how our struggles as well as our achievements have defined our character and resiliency as a nation. Discuss how understanding where we have been helps us to know better where we are now as a nation, and where we want to go. During local elections, discuss how many citizens have gained the right to vote over time for example, women, the poor, and minorities.
As your teenage child considers sports opportunities, discuss how Title IX has “changed the playing field” for boys and girls.
Throughout our history, people have come to the United States in search of a better life. Discuss how we continue to open our borders to people from around the world, as well as the tensions that have arisen over the course of our history.
Three: Take an interest in what your child learns at school.
Our children gain much of their understanding of American history, society, and values in our nation’s classrooms. Express an interest in your children’s schoolwork and consider how you can contribute to their studies. Here are some suggestions: To bring historical events alive for your child, explore historic sites in your community and while on family vacations. These might include Presidential libraries, famous homes, and “living history” sites.
Many courthouses around the country offer public tours, which introduce the community to the work and services of the court. History has been a favorite subject of Hollywood. Enrich an historical event your child is studying in school by viewing and discussing a film that interprets this event.
Four: Set a good example.
Let your children see that a free society depends on the actions of its citizens. For example: Vote regularly and explain why it’s important to do so. Respond to summons for jury duty and discuss your experiences with your child.
Help your child develop “good citizen” habits at an early age by volunteering as a family at a local food pantry, or participate together in a “community clean up” day. Discuss the importance of community service with your child.
Five: Let your child set the pace.
As a parent, you are in the best position to assess your child’s maturity. Your local library is an excellent place to explore resources for all age levels – in print, on video, and online – together with your child. Don’t discourage your child’s interest in a resource or idea you think may be beyond his or her grasp. You may be surprised by how much your child can understand.
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