Our friend Anna Giulia (and mum of two boys) shares her top tips on how to grow up your children to be sustainable conscious
Whether you have children of your own or you just spend time with young friends, it’s never too early to talk about respect: toward the environment, other people, other genders, other race. In fact, in the first six years of life, our brain is like a sponge which absorbs everything around us: think about the greatest achievements little humans make, from talking – often in multiple languages – to remember all the dinosaurs name or whatever passion they have in early childhood (I still recall my 2.5 years old correcting me saying “Mum that is not A dinosaur, it’s a Parasaurolophus”).
But what is even more important is that their brain absorbs their carers’ behaviour and attitude as well: modelling is crucial and so far the most effective way of teaching I’ve experienced with my own sons.
But how can you introduce to children complex topics such as climate change, natural resources crisis, footprint impact, animal extinction and so on?
Tip 1 – Be well prepared
The first tip is to be well prepared about the topic you want to explore: if you are not able to talk about it with an adult, there is no way you will escape a 4-year-old’s questions!
Tip 2 – Leverage on children’s curiosity
Have you ever been drained by thousands of “why”? Well, that’s how children’s minds work so if you see a bee, you can start a conversation about why bees fly from a flower to the other and, following the child lead and curiosity, you’ll most likely end up talking about sustainable farming methods. And if you are not sure about an answer, you can practically show them that learning is an ongoing process and just find the answer together on books or the internet.
Tip 3 – Visual is the answer
Read books or watch together documentaries about the topics you care (children’s literature is full of amazing publications), make an experiment to see if it’s faster for a piece of plastic, cardboard or a banana skin to decompose and explain why it is so important to reduce waste. Just make it practical and what they learned will stick with them.
Tip 4 – Modelling, modelling, modelling
Collect waste you find on your pathway, close the tap when you are brushing your teeth, bring with you a canvas bag when you go shopping, drink from a reusable bottle, participate actively with them to climate change protest,… Kids will just pick these habits as normal and they’ll behave in the very same way. And If they ask you the reason behind that behaviour, go back to the second tip and take the chance to teach something new. Sooner than you think you’ll hear them shouting “Save the Planet!” while turning off a light you forgot (real-life experience!).
Tip 5 – Share the ownership
Share the ownership of the decision that directly affects the kids. For instance, for T. 5th rainbow themed birthday party I asked him if he wanted colourful plastic cutlery and plates or compostable one. He chose the second one (making me extremely proud!). Same happened with regular VS bamboo toothbrush. You’ll be surprised by how conscious they can be.
Tip 5: Be gentle with yourself and to the kid
It’s really hard to be 100% environmentally friendly, especially when there are children involved. Sometimes they just really love some snacks wrapped in non-recyclable plastic and that’s just fine, they’ll learn that that particular packaging will have to go in the non-recycling bin…and maybe next time they’ll choose a different snack.
To wrap this up, I honestly believe that, when dealing with young humans, we all have a huge responsibility. They will be in charge of our Planet, sooner than we think. Their generation is the one that can make significant changes of direction on how politics is done, how the economy works, how the Earth is protected. We can teach them that violence is never an answer by talking to them respectfully and with kindness. That it’s their responsibility to raise their voices against the injustice in the World and to take actions in order to change how past generations have ruled (and partially destroyed) our Planet.
Thank you for bearing with me until the very end, I really hope this was useful!