Children/Families Involved at Occupy Wall Street Events

Kara Powell | Nov 1, 2011

As I’ve been tracking with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, I’ve kept an especially keen eye open for the presence of children and teenagers at the protests. Lest you accuse me of bipartisanship, I certainly did the same for previous Tea Party events.

Children, teenagers, and college students certainly are involved, as confirmed by this news story about parents intentionally introducing their children to the OWS movement, and vice versa. Given our ongoing interest at FYI in Justice, I tend to automatically assume that it’s good to expose kids to political issues and discussions about justice.

But I appreciated the article’s reminder that we as leaders and parents need to be thoughtful about what we expose our kids to (whether that we OWS or Tea Party Events, or something in between):

Child therapists are divided on the appropriateness of taking children to the protest. Susan Bartell, a psychologist who writes for, advises caution for the parents of children younger than 14. “There are kids who can go to a shelter at Thanksgiving and help serve a meal,” she said, “but there are kids who are traumatized by it.”

Madeline Levine, a psychologist, author of “The Price of Privilege” and a prominent critic of upper-middle-class child-rearing practices, disagreed. “We’ve done a lousy job of teaching civics in the country,” she said. “Everything is cast in terms of what it does for your résumé. There is something vital in being part of a group or a community.”

Part of what we recommend based on our Sticky Faith work is that parents use current events as springboards to talk about life, faith, and even their personally struggles and doubts. But I suppose a grain of caution is warranted to make sure we are talking about, and exposing our kids to, issues of justice in developmentally appropriate ways.

In my own experience as a parent, I’ve seen the importance of letting my kids’ interests and passions steer how our family responds. At a San Diego Padres game we attended this past summer, we all received “Two Free Taco” coupons from Jack in the Box on our way out of the ballpark. Our nine year-old, Krista, got the idea of giving these coupons to folks who are homeless, so she went to the 20 folks who attended the game with us and asked for their coupons also.

Since then, whenever we see someone who is homeless, Krista looks at me and says, “Mom, tacos,” and I reach in my purse for a coupon. We’ve blitzed through the taco coupons and are now giving away McDonalds hamburger coupons that we purchased ourselves.

I love that it’s Krista leading the way on this, which is part of what tells me that it’s not pushing her. In what ways have you seen children or teenagers lead the way when it comes to justice issues?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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