Family Guide to Faithful Citizenship
Some Do's and Don'ts
Do show your children that you are concerned about the issues and questions raised in the statement. Express your opinions or beliefs about these issues, and share questions you have about issues or candidates. Look for opportunities to state where you stand on a certain issue or why you favor a certain candidate. Don't push your children to adopt your stance or to support your candidate. Don't preach or try to convert them.
Do ask for their opinions, questions, or concerns. Be genuine with your interest, and really listen to whatever they have to say. Don't worry if they don't agree with your position or even with all the positions expressed in Faithful Citizenship. (Most of the issues addressed in the statement are very complex, even for adults.) The most important thing is that your children are aware and concerned and that they are thinking about the issues in moral terms.
Do show that you truly respect different points of view on the issues or candidates—that good people can disagree on specific matters without rancor.
Do get involved yourself. If you believe strongly in an issue or candidate—and hopefully you do—take an active role. It's a cliche, but actions do speak much louder than words, especially to our children. Do look for activities that your children or your whole family could get involved in with you (e.g., pro-life marches, environmental cleanup projects, the design of posters for a campaign, canvassing or leafleting for a candidate, attendance at rallies, letter writing to elected officials). Don't coerce or shame them into involvement, but invite and encourage it, leaving them free to participate or not. Of course, promising a favorite treat to children at the end of an activity is an excellent means of encouragement! Social action and ice cream just seem to go together.
Do vote and let your children know that you see voting as a priority. Bring your children with you to the polls. Watch the election returns together and discuss their implications.
Raising Family Awareness
Using Faithful Citizenship with your family involves thinking creatively, planning interesting family activities, and taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Here are some suggestions:
- Use TV as a resource: Look for shows that in some way address one of the issues mentioned in the statement. An example may be a news show or a documentary; it might also be a sitcom that is treating some current political or social topic. The key is to check out the show ahead of time and then to watch the show together. It's often effective if you just "wander in" and sit down while your children are viewing it. Or it may be necessary to decide ahead of time that you will watch a specific show together. However you do it, the most important thing is to talk about the show's topic. As mentioned above, share your thoughts and listen to their thoughts without being judgmental. Sometimes the only talking you can do is at the TV, but that's okay. They'll hear it.
- Question, question, question: The bishops' statement lists "Goals for the Campaign." Rephrase these goals as questions so that young people can relate to them. The following are examples: "I wonder how much money the person who sews the clothes we buy earns, or how much the farmer who grows the food we eat receives of the price we pay?" "Why are some people poor when so many people are rich?" "I wonder where we would go for health care if we didn't have insurance?" If the questions lead to further discussion, you or your children may need to do a little research.
- Look at billboards and television advertisements for various candidates, and critique the advertisements as a family. Do the candidates address any of the issues mentioned in the statement? How well?
- Pick out a few short excerpts from the statement, rephrase them for children, and post them on your refrigerator. Here are some possibilities: "The answer to violence is not more violence." "Every child should have the opportunity to be born and to feel welcomed." "Make the needs of the poor a priority." "Safe and affordable housing should be available for all." Try to find candidates or elected officials who support these positions by their policies and actions.
- As a dinner prayer in the days leading up to election day (usually the first Tuesday in November), read one of the scriptural passages referenced in the statement.
- Contact your library to get good children's books that deal with the issues. Green Street Park and Drop by Drop are excellent examples.
- Have a family night on "citizenship": Choose one or two issues from the statement that are of particular interest to your family. For example, if you have an aging relative in a nursing home, you may want to pick health care or Medicare reform as your issue to discuss. If you know someone who has been a victim of crime, you might focus on handgun legislation. Make a list of how this issue does or could affect your family. Develop a family statement that summarizes your view on the issue. Write this statement in a letter you send to one of the candidates, inviting their comments. End the evening with "patriotic sundaes": vanilla ice cream topped with strawberry and blueberry syrup or with the berries, if available.
- Identify some heroes—people who have taken a stand on these issues—whom your family could learn more about. Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, Blessed Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, and Gandhi are some well known examples of heroes, but you can probably find a number of local heroes as well. Your public library is a great resource, as is your diocesan social action office, peace and justice office, or pro-life office.
- With older children, reflect and act on The Call to Family, Community and Participation by using the CST 101 video on this topic.