As parents, all of us would like to raise our children to be the best that they can be. The world that we live in is filled with negative news. Controversies about the safety of GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, global warming, a compromised water supply, and a plethora of other environmental concerns can make the world a scary place. As adults, we have developed coping mechanisms to help us deal with a world that seems increasingly toxic. Our children do not yet have this wisdom, and for them it may seem like the entire world is out to get them. How do we talk to our children about the toxic world around us without traumatizing them?
Step 1. Arm Yourself with the Facts. There is a lot of information out there in cyberspace about these issues, but not all of it is based on fact. This is not to say that only information from government agencies or research foundations are valid. Environmental issues are hot topics and it seems that the status quo of accepted facts changes daily. Examine what you and your child are reading about the topic. Is it based on fact? Does it seem logical, or is it just someone's inflamed rant? If you cannot pick out fact from opinion, you can't expect your kids to be able to either.
Step 2. Teach Moderation. Attitudes about environmental issues tend to range from extreme to an attitude that no problem exists at all. These two extremes dominate news on environmental issues, leaving almost no room for the middle ground. Both extremes are locked in a battle to win you and your kids to their side. It would be safe to venture that the silent majority tends to be somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Talk to your kids about your viewpoint, and if you have teenagers, be willing to back it up. Allow them to express their opinions too. This is not the time for criticism, just listening and being supportive.
Step 3. Taking Away the Boogieman. This is especially important for younger children. They may become fearful about a seemingly uncertain future. This is a normal part of growing up and you, as parents, have dealt with this before. Just as you gave them a flashlight to battle the monsters in their bedroom at night, you can give those tools to battle the environmental monsters too. You can teach then that they have a choice and a voice in the issues that concern them. You can teach them to make healthy choices at the grocery store, at the school cafeteria and in other areas of their life. Knowledge is power and in this case, is just the tool that your kids need to combat the boogiemen of the modern world.
The world that we live in is increasingly complex and the problems that we face are increasingly complex as well. Children have the ability to comprehend much more than we give them credit for sometimes. The three most important things that you can do to help your child be environmentally conscious, yet balanced is to arm them with knowledge and talk to them Engage in open discussion about their views and what they know about the important topics of our day. Teach your kids how to evaluate what they read and hear about GMOs and other environmental issues. This will help them learn to sort out fact from fiction in other areas of their life too. Teach them about moderation. This is another good practice that will help them in other areas of their life too. Lastly, give your children a sense of control by letting them know that they have choices and that there is something that they can do about the issues that concern them most. Taking a common sense approach with our kids about environmental issues and the fears that arise because of them is the best way to assure that they grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults that will make the world a better place to live.