What makes a good citizen? Is it wearing full red, white, and blue gear while waving a flag on your way to vote? Although that is a fantastic gesture of patriotism, sometimes being a good citizen is represented in small things like standing up for someone being bullied or saying a simple “Thank You.”
In honor of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day celebrated annually on September 17, here are a few practical ways that children can be involved and learn to be good citizens.
Treating the Flag with Respect
It is wonderful how many schools have students raise and lower the flag each day, hopefully teaching them the proper flag etiquette in the process. However, those children who may not have had the opportunity to be a part of this ritual may not know the full guidelines related to flag etiquette such as acceptable ways to dispose of the flag and rules like never allowing the flag to touch the ground.
Even though they are unlikely to remember everything, doing a quick demonstration or review of flag protocols will expose your child to the importance of treating the flag with respect, which is the main lesson to be learned.
Showing Pride in the Country
This country’s history is entrenched with a love for liberty and freedom, and countless heroes have emerged who are noble examples of what it means to be an American.
Practical ways for kids to demonstrate their patriotism is to follow the codes of conduct for the national anthem, recite the pledge of allegiance at school, and participate in celebrating national holidays.
Being a Good Neighbor
Children often imitate the behaviors of their parents or trusted adults. By modeling for your children what it means to be a good neighbor and a good friend, you are teaching them how to be good citizens. Join with your kids in participating in community events, fundraisers, and charities. Take a meal to a sick friend or help your neighbor find their lost dog. Simple, every-day acts of kindness add up to make big impacts on people’s lives.
Many incredible feats have been accomplished through citizens using their voices to make a difference. A good citizen will look for ways to improve the country and communities and will peacefully use their voice to effect change. Encourage your children to think about issues that matter to them and help find ways for them to get involved in those causes.
According to Pew Research Center, voter turnout was 53.6 percent in the 2012 presidential election. That means a significant percentage of voters chose to not cast their vote. Being able to vote for elected officials is a valuable benefit of living in America. Even though children are not yet old enough to legally vote, they can still be a part of the process and appreciate the importance of our electoral system. Take them with you when you go to the polls, let them wear the sticker, and talk to them about the issues that are important to you and why you voted for the candidate you did.
Learning About the Country
A motivation for being a good citizen comes from knowing the country’s history. Schools and textbooks teach the nation’s history, but there is so much to learn beyond what is taught in the classroom.
Take a walk down memory lane with your children by talking with the older generation about what life was like in the past. Visit national parks, battlefields, and museums that bring to life historical events. Help your child do their own research on a particular event or milestone in our country’s past that has significant meaning to them.
Appreciating Those Who Serve
Understanding the role of the military and appreciating the sacrifices military families make for their country is an important part of being a citizen. In addition to military service members, policemen, firefighters, first responders, security agents, and other public servants are also among those who bravely serve and protect the country. Children can show their appreciation by thanking any of these heroes whenever they see them. You can take your kids to visit a local fire station and learn all about what a day in the life of a firefighter is like. Many organizations, such as Adopt a U.S. Soldier, facilitate students writing letters to deployed troops.
How do you help your kids understand the importance of being a good citizen? Please share your own stories with us in the comments below.