I have been researching this topic for a while now because 1) it became a huge part of me 2) I want to get it right.
I read and researched and read some more, such as Dr Pragya Agarwal article in The Green Parent Magazine called, How to raise and activist (Feb/March 2019 issue), a blog post written by lovely Ashleigh @wild.wood.childhood (her sources are library books). I looked up climate activist’s biography like Greta Thunberg, Leonardo Dicaprio and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.
I read and read and read some more but then I came to one realisation – and it was completely in line with everything I have ever read, learn about parenthood since becoming a mother – I just need to listen to my gut and intuition. Trust myself and my parenting decisions. Listen and letting my kids guiding me. Trust them. Trust that the are ready. That they want to know. That they want to be part of it. Be the example. Be gentle. Be patient. Be age appropriate. (I know, such an easy list to follow).
Coming to that realisation, I ended up with this list of thoughts on how we are going to go about raising our kids to be passionate about their environment even if it doesn’t mean they will be ‘activist’ but someone who will have a deep care about their planet.
Embracing their curiosity.
“When it comes to learning, there’s a powerful “rich get richer” effect; the curious kids get more return from the same effort than kids with a lower base of knowledge. That makes learning more satisfying for them, which in turn feeds their curiosity.” I just love that.
Brendan is soon 4 and have all the question there is. We are open and honest with him and try our very best to answer all his questions in an age appropriate and encouraging way. Like when he watched a 20 mins (kids appropriate) documentary about tigers we had a flood of questions about why they have that colour? Why they walk slow when hunting? How they drink? What they are meat-eaters etc. I loved those conversations and it was driving my to learn with him. We look into our kids encyclopedia to learn more together. I was encouraging him to try to find an answer himself, like when he asked why other animals are scared of tigers or why they can’t drink from a cup? Curious kids, drive parents to be curious. The same article points out ‘ The best way for parents to encourage children’s curiosity is to stay curious themselves… we need to adopt the perspective of young children, and remain intensely conscious of what we don’t know”
Keeping it simple.
While I totally agree with some of the views on the subject, which are touching upon explaining complex issues, such as climate change to a young child can be unnecessary and could have traumatising effects, I still think it is not something we need to shield our kids from. Keeping it simple and easy to understand while not going into too much details, could be a doable solution. I know, there is a fine line. But also, what is a fine line? Is it different to everybody? I think the answer is, yes! It can totally depend on the child and his/her interest, curiosity, development. Some are more ready for complex answers and some are not. If it doesn’t come up with my children at a young age, I wouldn’t push it either. Taking their lead and letting them guide me. I love this idea from Dr Pragya Agarwal “By introducing children to activism early on, we also encourage other useful skills such as creative thinking, problem-solving, planning and effective communication” – article snipped from the Green Parent magazine. Feb/March 2019 issue (no available online).
Letting them take part.
We recently went litter picking which was not only great fun but a perfect opportunity to talk about waste and plastic and how it effect wild life. Read more about it here. Sorting out recycling together is always a cool thing for them to do especially since we got this book which is not only full of rubbish trucks but helps them follow the whole journey of our waste. At the moment, it is a rather exciting thing to read about and no really understanding ‘the cause of environmental problems’ which I think is absolutely fine, therefore I don’t push explaining further (yet) but it is something they are becoming more aware. Knowing how much work goes into recycling and rubbish management at this stage is enough simply because they are fascinated by it. Later on, when I feel they are ready – by them asking more questions perhaps – we can talk about living with less waste or the harmful effects of landfills and incinerators. We also went along to the Extinction Rebellion picnic in Hyde park and joined other families for a peaceful and lovely afternoon. Again, there and then I didn’t go into too much details why we are going there. I talked vaguely about why we want our voice to be heard and to show support but nothing much and Brendan (age, 3) wasn’t really keen or asking further questions, so I left it. We had a sunny and fantastic afternoon, meeting friends and went home while licking ice cream and running bare foot.
Creating norms and lead by examples.
Eating less (or no) meat and animal products will become their norm. Vegan sausages and tons of veggies on their plate will transform into ‘mum’s home cooked comfort food’ (I hope). Although, I can’t and won’t be stopping them to try whatever they want later in their lives, I am hoping that by cooking mainly ‘earth friendly’, planet-based dishes it will stay their preferred choices. The other things we also do is for example, taking books from the library or using public transport, cycle to school. While I feel there is no need to discuss the environmental effects of these choices, they are the way we live therefore they are their norms. These norms will be also give space for discussions when they see their friends having different lifestyle habits and norms.
Connecting them with the natural world.
Although there is no scientific proof that those who spend more time in nature when they are young will be more attached to environmental issues, there are still tons of benefits of it. There are plenty of studies out there promoting that nature is a place where kids can build their confidence, how it promotes creativity and imagination, teaches responsibility, get kids moving and makes them think. Most importantly it reduces stress and fatigue. Read more on this here. Apart from regularly vising the local woods, we also planted flowers and are looking after together our home plants. I am making sure I get the kids involved in watering them and taking care of them when re-potting. We are also signed up to the Woodland Trust and joined their Natural Detectives package which is a fantastic activity pack encourages not only to spend more time in nature but to look out for seasonal occurrences, like spotting snowdrops in January, finding frogspawn in February and hear the first bees in March, etc.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this so let me know in the comment what you think.