As a simple definition, to be patriotic means "to be inspired by love for your country." Through a shared affection for America, patriotism can bring our country together, even as we hold different opinions and beliefs. To be patriotic doesn't mean you believe our country is perfect, just that you love it and want the best for it. That's why a true patriot participates in activities that make the nation successful, such as voting, paying taxes, protecting human rights, and encouraging others to do so – especially our youth.
Children are our future leaders, business men and women, politicians, and voters. As parents, grandparents, and upstanding citizens, we should consider it our shared responsibility to help the next generation understand the value of patriotism and citizenship in America.
How Does Our Youth Feel About America?
Some studies suggest younger generations view America more negatively than older generations. They tend to be less satisfied with the current state of affairs of our country and go as far as to say that other countries might be better than ours. Polling conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed 36% of Millennial Americans believe other countries are greater than the United States. This was the highest share of any age group. In contrast, only 9% of 64 and older Americans believe other countries are greater than the United States. Seniors are strong advocates for America!
While these statistics about our youth may seem concerning, there is hope. In the same study, 55% of Millennials and Gen X Americans believe our best days are still ahead. And, more than 90% of all respondents said America's freedoms have been crucial to our country's success. As younger generations feel optimistic about the future and believe in the power of our democracy, perhaps what they need today is inspiration, insights, and action from senior Americans to help light the path forward.
With that in mind, here are five specific ways you can inspire younger generations to be patriotic.
1. Talk About Patriotism
The 4th of July is a great time to bring up the topic of patriotism. You can start by explaining the meaning of Independence Day in addition to the sparklers, popsicles, and parades. You can share not only the textbook definition of patriotism but also what it means to you personally. Talk about what makes you proud to be an American, and ask them to share, as well. Ask which freedoms mean the most to them, such as freedom of speech or the right to privacy. Encouraging kids to think about examples turns the idea of patriotism into something more tangible.
Remember to keep the conversation light and positive, so you encourage hope instead of frustration. It's okay to acknowledge our history isn't perfect. Our goal is to become a better nation as we learn.
2. Set a Good Example
Children learn by example. When adults around them are caring people, it's easier for them to grow up to be caring people. And when children see and understand the importance of being contributing members to society, they'll grow up to be involved citizens. So, when you volunteer, vote, pay attention to issues, and write letters to politicians to voice your opinions, your children and those around you witness patriotism first hand and learn what it means to love our nation through action.
3. Call Out Other Good Examples
When you see patriotism, point it out and talk about why it's essential. Kids become patriotic gradually. They begin by learning how they fit into their family, then their community, and eventually expand their understanding of their role within society. To help guide this process, point out that America was built "for the people and by the people." This requires cooperation.
The next time you take a walk around the neighborhood, watch TV together, or simply talk about your community, notice the ways people are working together. Talk about the importance of health care workers, store owners, police officers, teachers, and citizens wearing masks to protect others. Seeing the community in action teaches the next generation we're truly in this together.
4. Teach Respect for Veterans and Active Service Members
Pretty much every generation understands that with the service of our veterans and active-duty military, we enjoy the freedoms we live today. The appreciation is there. To help expand on these feelings, encourage kids to take action on their gratitude. Here's a list of things you can do together:
- Fly the American flag correctly.
- Talk about the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
- Thank someone for their service and ask about their experience.
- Show up to events that honor our veterans.
- Support veteran-owned businesses.
- Write letters to those who are away on active duty.
5. Encourage Questions, Empathy, and Action
Using holidays such as Independence Day to jumpstart a conversation about patriotism is wonderful. Keep the dialogue open! Listen to the concerns of our youth as they talk. Be empathetic to how they feel about our country right now, and when the time feels right, encourage them to take actionable steps to make a difference. Teach them being patriotic is more than a one-time declaration or something reserved for holidays. Much like the love we have for people, love for our country must be actively nurtured. And that love is the one thing that can hold us all together.
We hope this article is helpful and you have meaningful interactions with younger generations. For continued reading and research on patriotism, this is a great resource.
All of us at Resort Lifestyle Communities love and appreciate our veterans, active-duty service members, and patriots. We believe it's an honor to call America our home, and we hope everyone enjoys a happy and safe 4th of July!