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How I’m teaching my daughter age-appropriate activism

Allison Kenny

For our family—a queer, multi-racial, adoptive family—the election of Donald Trump meant choosing to give a bully a lot of power, putting us and all vulnerable groups at risk. When we explained to our daughter why we were sad about his upcoming presidency, we told her, “His ideas are not just different than ours, they are wrong. We think he believes white people are better than people of color. And we’ve seen from his behavior that he believes it is okay to disrespect women and cross their boundaries. So our job is to stand up for what we believe and speak out about what’s right.”

My daughter is eight years old — but at times, much younger emotionally. It’s our job to protect her innocence and help her feel safe in the world, while also giving her honest, age-appropriate information about what’s happening, and ways to stand up for what she believes.

Image: Elizabeth Strong

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I wanted to create simple, concrete ways to take action in our family, and shape her foundation as a powerful girl in our world. So we made fudge. We wrote on tags and tied up the bundles with silver ribbon. And we knocked on every neighbor’s door.

The couple next to us with their tiny mixed-race babies. The 80-year-old African American man who lives with his own kids and theirs, who helped build most of the homes on our street. The gay dads whose son goes to school with our daughter. The woman across the street with chronic health issues, who has an ambulance come by every now and again. You get the idea.

I live on a street in Oakland full of folks who are vulnerable, who are also wondering if our rights will be protected, if our kids will be safe. So we knocked on their doors one rainy afternoon and brought them a little sweetness. We told them how thankful we were to be their neighbors.

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In my family, we try to balance reaching out with reaching in. It’s a tall order for parents to try to balance between burying our heads in the sand and manic, up-all-night activism. My daughter and I each have PTSD, which means we work extra hard to feel safe in our bodies and make our home a healing place — especially because there is so much collective rage and grief in our country right now. We pick it up. We get triggered into fight or flight, and it’s hard to come out. We need extra care.

We’re working on building radical self-care practices, knowing that we have to take care of ourselves first before we can take care of others. We’re mixing expensive but helpful bodywork treatments with plenty of free family movie nights, morning dance parties to Christmas carols and reading in front of the fireplace. And I think I’ve kissed my wife and daughter more in the past few weeks than in my whole life with them. We are soothing ourselves and each other so we can get back out there and be of service.

Because my daughter is watching, I will be more present. I will keep finding moments to play and laugh hard. I will take good care of my own mental health. I will remember what’s real—love, for example, and how my relationship with her is the most important thing.

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Because my daughter is watching, I will shop mindfully this holiday. I will write about what I believe in. I will continue reaching out to all the neighbors on my block. I will take action — big and small — to protect anyone more vulnerable than me.

Because my daughter is watching, I will not disappear. I will not let fear eat me alive. I will keep writing. Keep moving. Keep feeling. Keep hoping. Keep reaching as far as my arms can reach. And do my part.

Looking for more ways to make a difference? Invest in Spotlight: Girls, Allison’s family business puts girls center stage to change the world. Read her blog at

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