Helping Kids Be Green
A while back, I was interviewed for an article in Des Moines Moms about how we can help children to make Green lifestyle choices and care about the environment. Apparently, the article came out this week. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I wrote this post shortly after the interview and feel that I can now share it with you. It contains the gist of my entire conversation with the reporter.
First and foremost, I think kids learn by example. We can talk about taking care of the environment and our bodies all we want, but what will make the most impact is if we walk what we talk. Talking about exercise being important for our bodies doesn’t make much impact on our children if they never see us getting off our lazy butts, you know? Wally learns what is important to our family by living here. He sees us recycle, he hears us talk about waste and sees us trying to reduce it, he knows where we get our food and what we eat, he camps with us and hikes with us, he picks up trash with us. We talk about the things we do, but – at four – we don’t hit him over the head with it. If he were older, we’d incorporate more in-depth discussions about why we do what we do, but we keep things age-appropriate.
Second, though I can’t find the article to save my life, a back issue of Mothering cited a study that found that kids respond better to POSITIVE messages about the environment, rather than negative messages. Kids are so easily overwhelmed by the largeness of problems – particularly something like the environment. When I think about the messages I heard in school growing up…I honestly thought that the world was probably coming to an end. And that there was really nothing we could do about it.
The study cited found that kids who are hit over the head with the bad things – endangered species, shrinking rain forests, acid rain, global warming – tend to become more apathetic than kids who aren’t given those messages. They actually care about the environment less. Wow.
But what they found to be more effective is to first get kids engaged in the environment. Get them out in it. Get them caring about it. Adopt a Manatee (ok, showing my age?). Pick up trash. Go camping and hiking. Go on a nature walk. Learn about birds and trees and bugs. Garden. Once they are vested in the environment, they will naturally want to take steps to ensure that it stays safe.
In the end, there’s really nothing you can do to force your kids to be “green” or to care about the environment. Just like you can’t force your kid to enjoy playing the piano. But being green yourself and holding off on the scary doom-and-gloom messages seem to be great ways to encourage your (potentially) budding environmentalist.