Parents often ask me how to help kids develop good values. Quite simply, kids learn what they live. If you want your kids to be good citizens and care about making the world a better place, find ways to model that in your life with them.
Tomorrow is Earth Day, which would give us a perfect opportunity, if we weren't already so busy. Want to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, but don't know where to start and already over-extended? Make it easy on yourself.
Have a dinner table conversation tonight about earth day, pollution, climate change. Ask if the kids have learned anything about this at school. Participate in any school events tomorrow.
Discuss where your family wastes energy (by not turning off the lights or by taking long showers)? Set one easy goal to focus on in the next week.
After dinner, visit www.earthday.net for ideas. For younger kids, show them a photo of Planet Earth in all its splendor.
If your kids are too young for much discussion, ask them to draw a beautiful picture of Planet Earth. Laminate it, hang it, and get it out every year on Earth Day. (Be sure to date it and if they can sign it, by all means have them do so. This will be a family treasure.)
On Earth Day, at dinner, light a candle for the earth and agree on some new family habits. For instance, how about:
- If anyone receives a gift or buys something new, that person needs to choose one item to recycle, give to a charity, or toss.
- Plant a tree or shrub every spring. No room in your yard? Beautify your local school, park or playground.
- Turn off water while we brush our teeth.
- Everyone in the family takes on one regular recycling job (take out the recycling, send the printer ribbons to be recycled, find a place to donate used eyeglasses or cell phones to charity instead of tossing them, cull old household items for recycling.)
- Set a date to work together filling boxes with donations for others: toys, clothes, household items. Talk about why we recycle instead of throwing things away.
- Package up old books and donate them to your local public library.
- Get your family out in nature on a regular basis. Take a walk together as a family. Go for a bike ride. Have a family kickball game or a water fight. Or just take a blanket and snuggle up before bedtime, looking up at the stars together.
Put it on your calendar to check in on the first of every month with your family to evaluate your family's progress. We all know that developing new habits is hard. Kids need to see you model how to stay on a project like this, even a simple one. And, of course, every day is Earth Day!
Dr. Laura Markham