“I’m only 6. I can’t afford a lobbyist.”
―sign held by a little girl at Occupy Oakland

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
―Martin Luther King Jr.

Although I wish, now, that I’d been more involved in the Children’s Brigade in Oakland, I confess that I don’t understand why Occupy protesters are closing ports in Oakland and along the west coast today.

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What IS clear to me is that little is more important than reorganizing our massively messed-up political system, separating our government from the corporations and financial institutions that control it. I see Occupy as a social movement akin to the civil rights movement, as needed and as important. Thanks to all of the wonderful comments and emails I got last week, I have a better idea about where to start getting involved.

To me, Occupy Parenting isn’t just about creating a visible resistance in public spaces. It is also about actually making changes. Here are three ways that we can make a difference:

First, we can see Occupy Parenting as a “way of life for courageous people.” This is Martin Luther Luther King, Jr.’s first principle of nonviolence, and it reminds us that the forces of injustice are not something we can protest only part-time.

How can we change our way of life? We need to limit the corporate influence on our feelings, our physical environments, and our daily routines. We need to do this in our own lives, in our households, and in the lives of our children. (See this post for more about that.)

This will require, for many of us, lifestyle changes. We need to limit our media consumption—and our consumption in general.

We need to educate ourselves about what really brings us happiness and meaning. Getting a good night’s sleep and enough exercise is much harder than going shopping or having a few drinks, for example, but for most people it will also lead to much greater health and happiness.

(If you need information or inspiration here, we have a LOT of great science about what actually leads to happiness and meaning on this website. I also find the Center for A New American Dream to be a valuable resource for families who want to make these types of lifestyle changes, and last week dozens of people added their suggestions in the comment section of this post.)

Second, we can simply make our support for the Occupy Movement heard. Many of the encampments have been broken up, but pitching a tent isn’t the only way to join the movement (nor is it the most practical one for many parents). So much of our social life takes place on a virtual level; we can create a powerful online social movement, too.

We can make our voices heard here, on this blog, in the comment section. Or better yet, on Facebook or Twitter. Tell people that you support Occupy Parenting, and that you are putting your money, your attention, and your votes where your mouth is.

The key thing here is to not become overwhelmed. Take just one small step each day. Educate yourself about the forces of injustice a little bit at a time. We can take the Center for A New American Dream “Simplify the Holidays” challenge. Sign the pledge today; tomorrow, take just one of their suggestions for simplifying the holidays. Make changes one day at a time, in small steps.

Finally, we need to educate our children about this movement, to help them see that they have the power—and we do, too—to change the world. This is, at its core, a happiness habit: Our lives are far more meaningful, and joyful, when we are connected to others in the pursuit of justice, in pursuit of a cause much larger than ourselves.

When we share with our kids what the movement represents, we make a difference. When we explain to them that more than one in five American children—more than 15 MILLION—lived in poverty in 2010, they will understand, on a deep level, the injustice here.

We can explain to them that the wealth in this country exists to provide all children with food and health care and a decent education, but right now, a hugely disproportionate share of that wealth is controlled by a very few individuals.

Parenting is political. With so many children living in poverty, clearly our society isn’t working for children today. This is so very short-sighted of our government; our society will not survive if we aren’t bringing up our children well. As Marianne Williamson says in this inspirational speech, the chicken will come home to roost.

Unless we fight for change. Which we can do, right here, right now, one small step—or statement—at a time.

© 2011 Christine Carter, Ph.D.

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