By Katrina Wallentine
Tips to teach your child to care for the environment
Since I wrote my children’s book Clara and the Climate Changer, parents often ask me how they can teach their children to care for our planet.
My first question to them remains the same: “Do you care about and for our planet?” Ultimately, it starts with ourselves and we need to care about the planet, climate, environment, the future and our children’s future on this Earth, before even considering having that conversation with them.
Once you acknowledge your responsibility to protect the Earth, just as you protect your children, there are five ways that can invite your child to care for and the planet:
SAY ‘HI’ TO EARTH
Earth is our one and only home. Yet somehow, we take it for granted and we often forget to introduce our children to the miracle it is.
Let your children enjoy nature: Walk in the forests, swim in the lakes, watch sunsets, sleep on a beach under the stars and invite them to plant something into the soil and watch it grow.
Let them say ‘HI’ to the magic of this planet. You care for things you know, and for things you learn to love.
USE THE ELDERS
While I am writing this, uncontrollable wildfires are raging all over Europe and an iceberg is threatening a tiny village in Greenland.
Climate change is not something that will occur sometime in the future; it is happening right here and now, and will continue to effect future generations.
For our children, this is becoming part of their everyday. They don’t really know anything else.
This is why it’s important for our generation, as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbours and friends, to teach them why it’s important to care for our Earth and how to be eco-conscious and adopt sustainable ways of life.
If you’ve been around for over half a century, you’ve been around long enough to know what living on this amazing planet can be like, has been like, and what it means when it changes.
Let your kids see the Earth through the eyes of the elders around them.
It’ll give them a personal perspective that no TV show, article or book can do.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
If you would like to teach your kids to care for the planet, you have to be caring yourself.
Children learn from what you do, not from what you tell them. We all know this – even if we sometimes choose to forget.
Your kids watch you all the time. They want to know how things work on this planet and you are their main source of information. Often they are more aware of what you prioritise and care about, than you are.
Start becoming more conscious of what you do, whether or not you’re aware of your child’s presence at the time. Do you turn off the lights, the TV and computers when you leave your home? Do you bring your own re-usable bag when shopping? Do you sometimes cycle or walk instead of using your car? Do you recycle?
Lead by example. Chances are, if your child observes you making an effort to be environmentally conscious, they will do the same. Remember your choices matter.
ASK WHAT THEY KNOW
Again, your kids are born information sponges. They collect information from everywhere and everyone, and process it faster than the biggest computer.
In addition, most of them are born with incredible instincts and an inner compass of what is true for them.
Trust them. Ask what they already know about the planet, the environment, climate change and about what is required to create a better future.
Then really listen to what they suggest and if possible, act on it. It is their future. Allow them to be part of co-creating it as early as possible!
It’s always important to ask questions, because change is always possible.
We may not have the solutions or answers yet, but the only way we’re truly lost, is if we stop asking questions and stop looking for possibilities.
If you keep asking questions, your child will follow suit, and will constantly be searching for more possibilities and potentially even solutions.
That is what the Earth requires: that most people keep asking what else is possible beyond what we already know.
Katarina Wallentin is the author of Clara and The Climate Changer, which tells the tale of 9-year-old Clara, an empowered climate-heroine who embarks on a quest to restore the earth’s tainted beauty and the courage she musters when possibility knocks. Katarina is already working on her next book, for adults, called The Bullshitometer.