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The second in a series on raising patriotic kids.

Fear not, fellow parents, teaching your children about patriotism doesn’t have to add another time-consuming item to your to-do list.

There are lots of ways to help instill pride in our country that don’t take a lot of time and effort. Many involve things you would do normally — things that can help show your kids how unique and fortunate it is to be Americans.

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Start at an early age taking your children to the polls with you…show them how voting works – the buttons, the levers, the paper ballots – involve them as much as possible. If you can’t take them with you, then tell them about it. Let them get familiar with the process, and talk with them about what you’re doing when you step into that voting booth.

According to child development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa, as kids get older – when they’re tweens and teens – they form opinions about what we’re not doing well as a country. This is a great time to talk to them about how wonderful it is that Americans can work to make things better, something that’s not true in many nations. Talk to them about the privilege of being a U.S. citizen, Dr. Gilboa says, and the rights that come with it.

“Teach them to write to newspapers, protest, argue, doubt, question, and work to change things.”

Take them to political rallies, and expose them to people who are passionate about issues and candidates. Explain to your children why you are there, what you believe in, and what you hope to accomplish.

And don’t forget that patriotism isn’t just national, it’s local too. Expose your children to community, town, and state politics – bring them to a public meeting. It’s a real-life civics lesson in action.

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In addition to government and political participation, there are plenty of other easy ways for kids to get involved and show their gratitude to those who serve.

“Every time we bake in my house, we double it and deliver half to firefighters or police,” says Dr Gilboa, a physician, author, speaker, and mom of four boys. “The kids make cards. It’s an easy thing to do, and a great prompt to talk to them about the helpers and the heroes.”

If your kids know people who have served, encourage them to make Veteran’s Day extra special by calling them to say thank you for their service — something little that goes a long way.

Try sharing patriotic media. If you read something you like or hear a good podcast or song, share it with your kids and tell them why you like it. With young children, New Jersey first-grade teacher Diana Rambaldi suggests reading historical fiction to or with them.

“The Magic Tree House series has a lot of great stories featuring events in American history, including the Civil and Revolutionary Wars. There are definitely ways to break it down for kids so young.”

Rambaldi helped inspire The Boot Campaign’s Patriot League, a kid-centered, activity-based program that promotes patriotism and community service. She looks for as many ways as possible to bring patriotism into her classroom curriculum.

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Here are some some other ways to instill patriotism in your children:

  • Gather extra Halloween candy and send it to overseas troops. It’s an easy way to involve kids and support U.S. men and women in uniform (not to mention get all that candy out of your cupboards!). Find a dentist near you who participates in the Halloween Candy Buyback program, or check out Operation Gratitude for more information.
  • Visit your local veterans’ center with your children. Have them do a karate demonstration, read books out loud, play a piece on the clarinet – whatever comes easily for them. Veterans love to see kids do most anything!
  • Take off your hat for our national anthem, and make sure your kids do the same.
  • Use televised sporting events as a springboard for talking about why it’s great to be an American.
  • Be involved in your community. It can be done so many ways: scouts, town government, church, PTO, for example.
  • Attend patriotic events like holiday parades and observances.
  • Fly the flag at your home.
  • Work patriotic sites into your vacations. There’s nothing like visiting the battlefields of Gettysburg, the floor of Independence Hall, or the purple mountain majesties of the Rocky Mountains to appreciate the unique history and beauty of our country.

Hopefully these ideas inspire you to bring national pride into your family’s everyday life, helping your kids to be lifelong patriots.

Coming soon, learn all about The Boot Campaign’s Patriot League.

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