Here are ten tangible things you can do, as a parent, when the world seems terrible – because this week I’ve been mainly despairing about the state of society, which seems increasingly dreadful, while feeling helpless…you too?
There’s a good summary over on Cup of Jo about the ongoing horrors of family separation at the US border which has stunned every compassionate person in the world this week. But in addition, so much lately, from Brexit to refugees via pretty much everything in the UK and even sexist comments about female World Cup commentators has left me wanting to run around screaming at the top of my voice.
One thing that’s also struck me is that amount of people I know saying they feel helpless and that there’s nothing they can actually do. I think the news hits hard when you’re a parent, not because having children makes you special or any more empathetic by any means at all, but on a personal level you have your own child to bring up in this world and when even leaving the house takes forever it seems physically difficult to get out and make a difference.
As a blogger and someone who puts things out there online, and someone leading a relatively comfortable, privileged life, I find it a battle to strike a balance between knowing when to speak out, and knowing what to say, but also not being able to say nothing.
So instead of my weekly tales of parenting woe and a report on (yet) another ridiculous situation we found ourselves in, I thought I’d put together a list of suggestions for tangible things you CAN do, as a parent, when it seems like you can do nothing.
(I know these are only small things, and I’m sure there are many things I’ve missed off – let me know if you can think of anything else…)
Donate money: If you can, donate money to support a cause you feel passionate about. Hillary Clinton tweeted a link to donate to nine charities working on the US border (you can donate from the UK, and via Apple Pay so it’s super easy). There are also millions of other good causes in the UK and around the world, from refugee aid organisations, people working to end period poverty or a charity like Freedom Acts, which campaigns against human trafficking.
Donate things: Although it’s hard to donate time to volunteer when you have little people to look after, you can donate things instead, from coats to old baby clothes and equipment to charities that give them to families who need them, such as First Days, which gives practical support to child and families in poverty. You can also buy extra food for food banks when you go shopping.
Buy from companies who do good work: There are so many companies which sell products that either help people, or donate to good causes from sales, such as the FMLY Store’s range of t-shirts, or my t-shirt in the photo from the Help Refugees Choose Love charity campaign. Also, look online see what companies donate to the big political parties – it’s eye-opening – and vote with your wallet.
Use your phone as a force for good: If you’re glued to the sofa under a sleeping baby it’s likely you’ll have your phone in your hand and using that you can do a lot. Helping to spread authentic news, adding your voice, speaking out, donating money, signing petitions – it all helps. For starters, The Pool has this article with four online things you can do to help refugees.
Write to your MP or the Prime Minister: Again, something you can do from your phone is write to your MP or No 10 to protest about anything social or political, from Brexit through to the upcoming visit by Donald Trump. Use the Write to Them website or message the Prime Minister here.
Join a protest march: On the 19th July I’m planning on taking F along to the Women’s March London Bring the Noise protest which will take place during Donald Trump’s visit. If you can, join us! There will be a special family section which should be quieter for children. If you can’t, we’ll go on behalf of you.
Focus the little things: When big news events happen, I find it difficult to carry on talking about the little things – especially over on Instagram Stories – but I also think the everyday minutiae of domestic life is important and worthwhile, and what makes us human.
Don’t look away: Find out what’s going on. Take out paid subscriptions to publication you want to support, like The Guardian. Find people to follow who are spreading good words online (as an example, Cash is highlighting child poverty and social inequality over on Instagram). Also, as a caveat, it’s OK to take a break if it’s too much.
Talk to your children: I want to scoop mine up and hide them from the horrors of the world for as long as possible, but as they get older this becomes more difficult, doesn’t it? They discuss the news at school and as soon as they learn to read it gets harder to hide newspaper headlines or news bulletins. I don’t have a perfect answer to this apart from dealing with questions they may ask as openly as possible. This is a good book on explaining politics to children.
Bring children up to be kind and compassionate: ‘If you want to change the world, go home and love your family’ said Mother Theresa, which says it all really. One of the reasons I take them to vote is to hopefully show it’s important and something that they want to do, because this is what my parents always did. Children learn by example so by showing them you care will hopefully leave an impression. I have faith in the next generation which gives me hope, it really does.
If anyone has any other ideas or great charities let me know and I’ll update the post…