Raising an Eco–conscious Child

Has there ever been a more vital time to raise little eco-warriors? We are constantly bombarded with information about natural disasters, habitat destruction, species extinction and deforestation, with many events having direct links to our increasingly unstable climate. Earth Overshoot Day, the day where humanity's demand for the Earth's resources exceeds the amount that can naturally be generated in a year, is becoming earlier and earlier in the calendar year and the destructive demands of large scale industries which continue to value profit over planet, are coming to light all the time. I have spent the last few months researching and learning more and more about the climate crisis, alongside working within the sustainability sector as part of the local zero waste movement, focussing particularly on reducing consumption on the go and increasing recycling rates. I have also recently joined Extinction Rebellion. But where does this leave my role as a parent, especially now our son is 2.5 and we are entering the pre-school years. How does my work and environmental activism influence my parenting?

We are leaning towards primarily home educating our son at least until the age of 6, although he will hopefully also be attending a Steiner kindergarten a couple of half days per week and Forest School a few times a month during this time. Our educational philosophy is mostly Waldorf inspired and I strongly believe that learning about and spending as much time as possible in nature, is crucial to the development of the young child.

If we want to raise our children as little eco-warriors then we need to fully immerse them in nature from as young an age as possible. It's all about slow, barefoot woodland walks searching for foraged goods, identifying different types of wildflowers, spending hours wandering along beaches, lying like starfish on the grass, watching cloud shapes float by in the sky and taking the time to pause and listen to the breeze rustle amongst the tree leaves. If they are going to develop a passion to learn to save the Earth then they must, quite simply, fall in love with it first. Which is why I think there should be some degree of protection between our young children and the harsh realities of how humanity is destroying our planet. They need to learn to love nature before taking meaningful action to protect it.

Some may say reducing population numbers by not having kids is the answer but I believe one of the greatest weapons we have in our arsenal to fight back again the destruction of the planet is the way we raise our children. We need to raise them to be thinkers who question everything, most of the time young children are much more intelligent than a lot of adults give them credit for. I'm a firm believer of reading literature with young children which is supposedly for much older kids, they are never too young to try articulate long words or hear wonderfully rich magical stories. Allowing them to learn about topics such as CO2 emissions, large scale animal agriculture, global warming or plastic pollution will indeed mean they are capable of learning all the facts and reiterating all the correct buzzwords, but it puts their relationship with the natural Earth in jeopardy. It will raise barriers between nature and themselves, ultimately meaning they will be less interested in trying to do anything to protect it further down the line. A young child should have a nurturing relationship with the planet in order to fall deeply in love with nature. Once the child becomes older and their relationship with the natural world is fully formed and secure, learning about environmental destruction from that point onwards will hopefully ignite their inner desire to protect it through becoming activists themselves.

Of course, as a family, we are constantly trying to reduce our impact in a number of ways and Roscoe will always be exposed to our efforts, but we are trying to present these things to him as simply the "normal" way of doing things. Not lecturing every time we do something remotely "eco-friendly" but just getting on and doing it quietly. Yes Roscoe knows what can and can't be recycled, what can go in the compost heap and how to wash his hair with a shampoo bar, because he has never known any different, he has always just imitated us doing those things as part of everyday life. We never buy new clothes and only visit second hand shops, clothing exchanges or my knitting cupboard when we would like something new, consuming fast fashion just isn't part of our life. We use our car very rarely and usually train, bus or bike wherever we go, Roscoe must have spent weeks on public transport in his short life. We have also pledged to go flight free in 2020. And yes we will still pick up litter on our daily walks and eat vegan the majority of the time, mostly because these are kind and wholesome things to do, not because we're trying to prove our commitment to being environmentally friendly. Of course he will ask more and more questions as he gets older and it is our duty to answer them respectfully and honestly, but I never want to launch information at him, as parents we need to nurture and guide his curiosity, not control.

Delighting in nature together, giving children the time and space to fully bond with nature whilst protecting their childhood will hopefully produce strong adults with a deep love for our beautiful Earth. A love that will overcome their feelings of despair when they eventually learn more about the destruction of our planet, preparing the environmental activists of tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,

Emma


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