One of our key responsibilities, here at Humanium, is to ensure that all children around the world are aware of their rights as a child and have enough knowledge, empowerment and support to stand up for them. By teaching your child about the on-going environmental issues, you are only teaching him about his right as a child, but also about his rights as a future adult (right to life, right to adequate food, right to health), and you are giving him the tools necessary to safeguard them. The youngest generation will, by far, be the most impacted by climate change, but they are also the ones with a great margin of action for change. It is thus primordial to equip them with the best knowledge of the situation awaiting them. We often hear “youth is the back bone of the nation”, they are indeed the key element in behavioural changes, by representing 42% of the world’s population they hold a great power to overturn the future of our planet. However, they cannot do it on their own! Despite the numerous projects developed by Youth around the world (climate march, political parties, Trashtag Challenge…), our children still need education, guidance, empowerment and support from older generations.
So we, at Humanium, have decided to help you with that major task by drawing parental guidance on how to achieve these essential goals.
Education: What is going on with our planet?
It can often be very challenging to explain a dramatic situation without installing fear in our little ones. Here’s how you can go around this obstacle:
What is climate change?
Climate change, also called global warming, is the process of our planet heating up. In the past 100 years, her temperature rose by 1°C, which might not sound like much, but on a global scale can affect on many levels. Unfortunately, rising temperatures do not rhyme with nicer weather, but quite the opposite. That extra degree does have a direct impact on the weather, by making it more unpredictable and more extreme.
Consider the Earth like a human being: human activities have made our Earth really tired, so tired that she has now fallen ill and has increasing fever. Our planet is really hot, and like we would during a bad flu, she attempts to cool herself down to make herself feel better. To do so, she increases the strength of her wind, the flow of her rain, and will empty her stock of ice cubes. This is why you might notice some areas in the world having heavy floods, or an increase in the intensity of hurricanes, or the ice from our poles melting. This is just our Planet trying to heal herself from the bad flu Human kind has given her.
What causes climate change?
As previously said, the Earth did not fall ill on her own. The consequences we are seeing now on the climate are the result of centuries of industrial innovation and human expansion. 150 years ago, our peers did not know the impact their growth would have on you, me and the Planet. Truth is, we have cut entire forests to build our cities, we have dug into our soil to get fuels for our creations, we have multiplied our resources to feed our babies and all of these activities have hurt our planet. By cutting our trees we have damaged an important part of our Planet’s lungs, by burning fossil fuels we have filled her lungs with toxic air and covered her body with an overly hot toxic blanket, by developing our agriculture to an extreme level we are polluting our air, our soil and most importantly we are affecting other species leading up slowly to their extinction.
So what can we do to stop this?
Guidance: Teach your children a green behaviour
There are many things you can teach your children for them to have an environmental friendly behaviour, and most of them can be fun and adapted to their age, they will also most likely bring you financial savings.
Teach them to go green from home:
– Close the tap when you do not need it (over a gallon of water can be saved per home by this simple action)
– Use the dishwasher only once it is full, rather than hand wash the dishes (hand wash uses a lot more water and electricity than the dishwasher)
– Do not turn the lights on if you can use natural light
– Give away clothes and toys to other children when unused
– Re-use and/or recycle items
– Never waste food
Teach them to go green away from home:
– Encourage the use of public transports
– Prioritise walking for short destinations
– Always throw your litter in a bin
– Develop outdoor activities rather than indoors
Lead by example:
– Work together in a garden or compost project
– Teach them about the classification of recyclables
– Teach them to respect nature the same way you teach them to respect human beings
– Prioritise cloth over plastic
– Teach your children about fauna and flora
– Use the “eco” mode on your electronics
– Dust off your heating before turning it on
Empowerment: All children need a little help, a little hope and someone who believes in them
If your child shows signs of engagement towards the environmental cause, do not panic its good news!!! It means your child, thanks to you and other influences, has developed his own values and convictions, he is slowly becoming an adult. However, and you probably will agree with me on that point, he is not yet an adult. So how, as a parent, do you deal with your child becoming engaged in a cause? At Humanium, we have drawn 2 steps to help you empower your child: Acceptance and Encouragement.
Set all preconceived ideas aside.
Despite being raised by you, your child is the result of multiple other influences and sources of knowledge, so have a conversation, listen to his points, fact check, and correct him if needed. Empowering your child will require a lot of communication, but while doing so it is best to remember that your child is his own person with his own opinion and views, thus does not have to agree with you. Part of empowering him to defend his Rights is accepting this idea.
The world is not the same as when you were his age. In the event your child shows signs of social engagements, do not panic and think he is going to become one of those French revolutionists from May 68. Inform yourself on his rights, legal obligations and set a frame. You are still his parent, and part of his empowerment will require you to set boundaries to inform him and to protect him. Empowering your child to become an environmental Child Rights Defender does not mean accepting everything he does, it means accepting his beliefs and values, supporting him in his actions, guide him towards the best approach while bearing in mind his best interest.
Empowering your child can be a complex role, especially when you completely disagree with the views he holds. If that is the case, don’t worry there is a way around it.
There are plenty of associations supporting the environmental cause in so many different ways. You can thus, together, search for one that matches his convictions. That way, your child will not only feel supported but he will also be supervised and will be able to stand up for what he truly believes in. One of the most popular organisations in this domain is Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Roots & Shoots is the Jane Goodall Institute’s youth program that aims to help human communities, animals and the environment. Dr. Goodall initiated Roots & Shoots with 12 Tanzanian high school students who wanted to take action to solve the urgent problems they were seeing in their community. Today, Roots & Shoots groups are making positive changes in more than 130 countries around the world. This organisation could be a good step forward for your child, he will be able to develop, take actions while still learning and being supervised. Take a look at her website, and see whether a group of action is available in your area. You can also search on the Global Modern Slavery website, which gathers a number of organisations around the world. They are classified by range of action, country or even specific area. That way, you may be able to find an organisation that matches your child’s conviction while still being close to home.
Trust the education you have given him. You know better than anyone his strengths, qualities and skills, so highlight them, help him boost his confidence, and make him believe he can do it, he can make a change. One of the most beautiful feeling as a child is the belief that we can change the world and don’t we all wish sometimes that we still felt as powerful as we did when we were young! So do not be the one to take that away from him so soon. Make him believe!
Written by Maureen Fauconnier