Celebrating July 4th! Holidays as Opportunities

diane sitting on steps with three kidsFlags are beginning to appear on lawns, parades are being scheduled, and even Wawa is sponsoring a concert with fireworks at its “Welcome America” event in Philadelphia.

The Fourth of July is a celebration of independence, for the amazing country we live in, with its remarkable history, that makes us proud to be Americans.
Holidays like Independence Day are also opportunities for parents to pass on the legacies from our ancestors that have allowed us the privilege of living in this country. Therefore, holidays like the Fourth of July are opportunities to nurture citizenship and patriotism in our children

A few thoughts for parents to consider:

On Study.com, the authors provide some helpful information parents can share with children. “Not only is patriotism about feeling pride in your country, it is about taking that pride a step further and putting it into action. A patriotic person sees their status as an American citizen as a great honor, but that honor comes with responsibility. Therefore, patriotic people think about how their choices will reflect on their country. Patriotic people make choices that will make their country look good.”

The authors go on to share ways we all can show our patriotism.

“Some displays of patriotism can be obvious, like flying the American flag. This is a symbol of freedom and flying it sends the message that you are proud of this freedom. You can also take it a step further and say [or make sure your children know] the pledge of allegiance. You can demonstrate how we salute the flag as a way to show our respect.”

If you have children who are in elementary school or older…
…You might think about showing them a YouTube video from 1969. The quality is a little fuzzy but the message is amazing.

In it, American comedian Red Skelton beautifully takes apart the Pledge of Allegiance to explain it phrase by phrase. He enriches the whole experience of repeating this commitment of allegiance to our country.

I know it can be so easy just to recite something as familiar as the Pledge of Allegiance and not necessarily pause to think about what the words actually mean. By explaining each phrase in this pledge, parents can promote a sense of pride as Americans in their children. They can enhance their own sense of citizenship and patriotism at the same time.

Parents can also explain to their children what our basic freedoms are as citizens of this country. For example, if you haven’t gone back to reread the Bill of Rights since you were in high school or college, it could be a wonderful shared learning experience to talk about each one of these rights and what they mean for each of us.

In these politically tumultuous times, it can be important to teach our children that everyone has the right to their opinions and beliefs, even when they differ from our own.

If your children are older, you can engage in some conversations about the issues around athletes taking a knee at sports events during the national anthem. This invites your children to consider if and how this might be a way to exercise one’s right to communicate beliefs.

You may feel differently about this but again, having discussions with your children invites them and you to look at the basics of our Constitution and its Bill of Rights to consider what these mean to us and how we express them.

The website goes on to list our core democratic values.

These are fundamental to America. Parents might want to discuss with older children, including focusing on honoring and supporting the common good, justice, equality, respect for diversity and the right all of us have to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

boy scouts saluting the american flagHave you as an adult taken the time to consider what each of these means to you? Have you then taken the time to talk with your children about each and how important it is to value each?

This government website offers a tremendous amount of information parents can use to help explain our country’s fundamental value system and ways of operating.

I remember being a young child, waving a flag at a parade where there were bands and floats; fire trucks with red, white and blue decorations; children on bikes and in wagons decorated with colorful streamers; and all kinds of other tributes being made to America.

I remember how—even though I was probably only three or four years old—my own sense of awe for being an American citizen was beginning to be nurtured that day. My heart pounded to the rhythm of the drums, and I knew something deeply important was on display in front of me. It gave me goosebumps then and it gives me goosebumps now.

We can still count our blessings.

With all its flaws and struggles to maintain basic rights and values, we are so blessed to be Americans. As parents, we need to take every opportunity possible to nurture a love of country in our children.

Invitation to Reflect

  1. What are some of your earliest memories of understanding what this country values and the incredible gifts of freedom we all share? Consider sharing your stories with your children.
  2. What are some of the ways you might promote patriotism in your children? How familiar are they, and for that matter are you, with our fundamental rights as citizens? What are some specific ways these are manifested in our day-to-day lives that you can point out to your children?
  3. Do you fly an American flag regularly, especially on patriotic holidays? These include Martin Luther King Junior Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Constitution Day, Election Day and Veterans Day.

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Lakeside Global Institute