By Olivia Youngs
Let’s preface this post by saying there’s no “magic formula” for raising children of any sort. Parenthood isn’t a one-size-fits-all task, not by a long shot. You may find that one method that worked for someone else failed for you. That’s ok. But since you clicked on this article, chances are you’re in the throes of modern, conscious parenting and are hoping to raise your own children to be full of awareness of the big issues facing the planet.
Raising socially and environmentally conscious children, as complex as it seems, is actually simpler than we may think. I know what you’re thinking, so bear with me. How can approaching issues of environmental justice, sustainable living, and social impact be a simple task? How can a child understand these complex issues most adults can barely tackle?
First of all, the fact that you’re already thinking of ways to integrate conscious living into your children’s lives puts them ahead of the pack. They won’t have to unlearn years of harmful habits like most of us did. Luckily, children are pros at mastering the things we underestimate them for. You’ll be amazed at how much your kids understand, how deeply compassionate they can be, and how easily they can take initiative on their own. All you have to do is foster an at-home atmosphere encouraging their budding environmental and social passions.
1. Lead by example
First and foremost, the best way to effect lasting change in your children is to lead by example. Show them what it looks like to care for the planet in real day-to-day life. When your children see you bringing your own water bottle and coffee mug, reducing waste, and recycling, it will be more impactful than simply having a conversation about it. Be honest about your mistakes and celebrate your successes with them.
2. Have conversations about responsible living early on
In addition to leading with your actions, having intentional conversations with your kids, no matter their age, about how their actions can make an impact is important. When they see you bringing your own bags to the market, using cloth napkins and towels, air drying your clothes, and acting with the environment in mind, and ask you why, you can explain, in terms they’ll easily understand, how we have the power to care for our earth instead of harming it. You can talk to them about littering, caring for our oceans, choosing to bike or walk over driving -- the possibilities are endless and each conversation will have a lasting impact.
3. Attend events, marches, and classes with your children
Although some may assume that public marches and demonstrations and classes about environmentalism aren’t suitable for children, we beg to differ. Our founder Marianna recently attended the Students Strike for Climate march with her son (pictured in Jackalo pants, of course) and his friend. They were so excited to use their voice to create positive change and joined right in with the teens (who loved seeing two kids leading the chants!)
4. Let them take the lead
Once you’ve had a few conversations and have led by example, give your kids the opportunity to choose environmentalism for themselves. You’ll be surprised at how observant your kids are as they pick up trash off the ground, ask to walk instead of drive, or ask if they can join you for the next march or trip to the recycling center.
5. Immerse your kids in nature
Perhaps most importantly, letting your kids experience nature firsthand and often is paramount to raising children who care about the planet’s future. If you live in an urban area, take them to botanical gardens, conservation areas, or on quick out-of-city trips to experience nature. If nature is in your backyard, even better! Encourage your children to play outside often and, as they do, teach them that they have the power to care for their playground for years to come. Looking for a way to get kids excited about the nature around them? Try our free Noticing Walk download.
Raising environmentally conscious kids seems complicated, but we hope these simple steps will give you inspiration on where to start.
How are you helping your kids learn to care for the planet?