How to Participate in your First Protest March with Kids

by - Tuesday, September 17, 2019

How to Participate in your First Protest March with Kids (or Without)

In 4 days, the Global Climate Strike will be staged in communities all over the world. Even in the US, they are having them everywhere, from Tennessee to New York City. If you haven't looked yet, you will probably be shocked how many are near you. Seriously, click that map!

Have you been worried about the environment lately? Reading about the Amazon being on fire? How about the Mass Extinction we are in? Are you trying to push down your worry about climate change?

The best way to feel better (and have a little hope) about the environment is to get involved and do something. Even if you have NEVER participated in something like this before, you should go to the Climate Strike near you. We desperately need your help, and we need the numbers at these events to be so overwhelmingly large that our leaders have no choice but to take Climate Change seriously.

Now, I know how hard this is to do, especially if it is out of your comfort zone or you have never tried it before. It's even more stressful if you have little ones in tow; just going to a new playground or friend's house can be crazy terrifying with my spawn! Going to new places with little kids can feel terrifying- will it be violent? How will they hold up? Will we be annoying people? And, of course, what if they have to pee?

I know I thought all of those things before I went to my first march after having kids, but I took the leap, and I am so glad I did. Nothing gives me hope like getting in there and getting involved. It gives me hope, and it puts me next to lots of other humans who care so I don't feel alone.

If you have been debating whether to show up to the Climate Strike, please, please do it. You have the power to turn this around with us, but only if you turn your concern into action. If you are nervus about it, don't be scared! Here are my best tips for participating in political action (even with kids).

1. Write the Organizers

Are you worried about whether this event is likely to escalate? Whether there is transit nearby? If there will be bathrooms you can take your toddler to? Just ask! A real person or group organizes these things, and if they are good at what they do, they may have even thought of these problems. If not, you can at least feel confident that you are bringing up a question that another person wishes they had asked.

 If they aren't helpful or forthcoming (or you feel uneasy about their answers), you know that isn't an event for you. That's ok! Go to something else instead. Otherwise, you can get a lot of questions answered by simply asking around. They want you there, so they will want to help.

2. Go with a Group

My best advice is to go with friends. Or your partner. Your cousins. Someone who you know already, who you can trust. If you are going with kids, going with other people who are parents (or who bring their kids themselves) makes a huge difference. Our first march with kids we went with two moms that I love so much, and even though they were kid-free that day, they still have those mama sensors on.

Nothing covers your blind spots like having another person and another perspective at the same event. One of my friends is so much better than me at bringing snacks (or enough snacks... my kids eat a lot). Someone else will remember bringing enough water or have a better awareness of where the bathrooms are.

Going to an event like these can feel really vulnerable. That vulnerability can feel scary, but it also is a great opportunity to build community. Even if you don't know someone really well, it can be a very cool way to bond, and it just feels less scary to walk into a crowd with someone next to you.

So, if you have a march you really want to go to, ask someone to come with you! The more the merrier (but really, one of the most powerful parts about these demonstrations is simply seeing how many people care enough to show up. So getting people to come with you is important political work!)

How to Participate in your First Protest March with Kids (or Without)

3. Make a Sign

No matter what, it feels good to show up with a sign. It can help you connect with others and reflect on why you are there in the first place. If you plan to go with kids (even the really little ones), sign-making can be one of the most important parts. It is a time to work together, but also talk about what it is you are participating in. The day can be so busy and speakers often stink. In other words, they may not understand what the heck is going on in the moment.

Use the quiet art-making time to talk a little more about why you care and why it is important to do something. This may feel silly, but the more you do it, the more civilly literate your kid will be. That's a big victory all on its own.

Lastly, lots of kids will love the interaction and attention they get from having the sign. In fact, my kid just loves having something to hold, whether it gives him attention or not! It is a perfect tool for making the day weirdly fun.

4. Be Prepared

Yes, there are things you need to bring. The more prepared you are, the better a day you can have. Here are the things everyone needs to bring (and a few bonus items if you have kids with you).

1. ID. Be able to identify yourself.
2. Phone numbers written down. In the age of cell phones, you may not know your contact's number off the top of your head. If your phone battery dies, it can be a big problem! Be sure to have them written down too.
3. Phone numbers ON your kids. If somehow you got separated (this has NEVER happened to me before. Not even close. But just in case), you want someone to be able to call you immediately. Have your number on your kid somehow.
4. Weather-Appropriate Layers. I am totally one of those people that tends to just say "whatever, it will be fine" and wear flip flops in the snow. Don't do this for a protest. You will be outside for a long time. And if you are marching, you want to be able to be cool enough while walking and warm enough when standing still.
5. Snacks! If you are taking kids, bring double what you think you will need. We bring tons of fruit and veggies. If I were really on point, I would have some pb and j on hand too.
6. A Bottle of Water. We bring our Klean Kanteen or Liberty Bottleworks bottles, because they are pretty lightweight.
7. Paper and  a Marker. Can be great to have if you want to write down someone's information.
8. A First Aid Kit. This is if you are one of those hyper prepared people. Otherwise, you will probably be ok without it. But it doesn't hurt to be prepared.
9. Sunscreen. Take care of that skin!

I carry all of this in a small backpack, and we have usually had a stroller with us too. It hasn't been a huge problem to move with lots of stuff. I also see lots of wagons out, which is genius for hauling multiple kids and stuff at once.

You will see suggestions for other things like bandanas or natural remedies for tear gas. I have never gone to a demonstration that felt tense enough to bring those sorts of supplies. And if I got somewhere and it felt that combative, I would probably leave (if I had my kids with me). But honestly, I have gone to at least 7 or 8 demonstrations in the last few years, and I have never seen anything that wasn't respectful and safe.

How to Participate in your First Protest March with Kids (or Without)

5. Be Kind and Keep an Eye Out

Just be kind to people. When you are standing around, make small talk with your neighbors. If you see groups out that interest you, go talk to them!

There can be nervousness about things getting testy, but here is my advice- keep mostly to the periphery, go for marches (they are easier than standing still), and

Climate Strikes are youth-led, so I have never heard of any nonsense happening- it is literally a space for kids.That said, these events can be spaces for conflict, so keep an eye out. If an area does seem tense, just steer clear of it. Like I said, I have never had a problem, but I also have a lot of privileges being a white lady with babies, so police and other people have never been anything but polite.

You can use your privilege to diffuse tension or to keep the vibe constructive. Get to know your neighbors. Ask to take pictures of the signs you like.

6. Identify your Potties (or Exit Routes)

Force potty breaks when you can. Also, as every parent knows, that isn't going to stop your lovely spawn from needing to pee the worst possible moment. Their bladders are wired to do this. So, keep an eye out for public restrooms or restaurants (you can buy a cookie if you need to).

Also, it helps to be aware of what your exit plan is. Parking nearby or public transit can both be good or terrible solutions, but you do what works for you. I get that it may not be perfectly in the spirit of the event to drive there, but it is ok to make this part of it as easy and comfortable for yourself as possible. No shame, and you can always try something more ambitious next time, but if it's your first time, choose what is most comfortable for you.

7. Going for a Bit is Better than Not Going at All

The long run times of these things can be a deterrent from taking the leap and trying. Go for the time you can go. If it isn't the whole time, that's ok. Better to show up and be counted (even for a short time) than to never get involved. It may be easier than you think too! Be loud on your social media about going, because you may empower someone else to go for it next time.

In other words, just go! You will not regret it. Get to the Climate Strike. We need you there.

What is your best advice for participating in a march or protest?

How to Participate in your First Protest March with Kids

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