My daughter is ten years old now, which makes her a fully-fledged tween. There are lots of great things about this age, and one of them is that she has an increasing ability to understand the world around her. We have detailed and in-depth conversations that wouldn't have been possible a few years ago. And one of the things that we've been discussing lately is the state of the environment.
I've worked hard to raise little environmentalists, but that looked different when my kids were younger. I talked to them about the importance of taking care of the earth, and modelled green choices like recycling, shopping second-hand and walking instead of driving. They didn't really understand the reasoning behind why these choices mattered, though. Now that my daughter is older, she asks tough questions about climate change, pollution, energy use and a whole lot more. As we talk, I find myself walking the line between informing her and scaring her. After all, she still is only ten. Here's how I talk about the planet in a way that I hope is positive and productive.
Talking to Tweens About the Environment
- Keep it simple. When my daughter asks me a question, I do my best to answer that question without providing a whole lot of extra information. More details will come later. For now, there's no point in burdening my child with a lot of extra information that she can't act on.
- Keep it practical. Kids are very concrete thinkers. Relating big issues back to their own lives and experiences can help them understand complicated concepts. By keeping it practical, you're also leading naturally to steps we can take ourselves to make a difference. Which leads me to ...
- Make it action-oriented. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when you're faced with a big problem, even as an adult. Having something to do can help you stay positive. If your kids are feeling frightened about the state of the planet, emphasize what they can do to make a difference. It's possible that your family is taking steps already, but your kids don't really understand the reasoning behind those changes, so now is a great time to fill them in.
- Show me the money. A lot of tweens get an allowance, or have some other source of spending money. One way that many parents teach good financial skills is by having their kids set aside a portion of their money for charity. If the environment is important to your family, you can help your tween to choose an environmental charity to donate to. You can also share how your tween can make green spending choices when they're out shopping.
- Don't lie. It's tempting to down-play, sugar-coat or downright lie when you're talking about hard truths with your kids. This teaches your kids that they can't trust you, though. Information is power, and as children grow they need more information to understand the world and their place in it. Let your kids guide you about what you share and when, and don't overshare, but be as honest as possible as you tackle environmental questions together. You also don't have to be afraid to say that you don't know the answer to a question - you can search it out together.
Finally, if you're looking for good environmental websites for kids, eartheasy and Care2 have suggestions.
How do you talk to your tweens about the environment?