Toxin Talk: What to Tell Your Kids About Cleaners | Seventh Generation
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Toxin Talk: What to Tell Your Kids About Cleaners

6 comments
Author: the Inkslinger

Cleaning Aisle in Grocery StoreAs parents, it's important that we talk to our children about topics we wish we didn't have to discuss. From refusing drugs to dealing with strangers, there are many things that kids need to know. Every parent has his or her own list, and we think a chat about cleaning products and household chemicals should be on it.

Unlike adults, who are finished growing, children are particularly susceptible to the health effects that can be caused by exposure to the synthetic toxins found in many conventional cleaners. Even if you use green cleaners at home, encouraging a healthy sense of caution is vital because out in the world -- at their friend's house or at the supermarket -- such chemicals are common. Here's some guidance:

  •     At the supermarket, show them examples of the kinds of products you're talking about. Explore some warning labels together and talk about what they mean.
  •     Explain to your kids that products like cleaners often contain chemicals that can make us sick if we breathe too much of them or get a lot on our skin.
  •     Tell them that these chemicals are things you can't really see. Their invisibility makes it very hard to tell if they're in the air or on a surface. Sometimes we can smell the product, (which means we're too close!), but often it's impossible to know if we're breathing or touching it.
  •     Explain that there are a lot of different ways chemicals can make us sick, and that we can't always count on a sudden sick-to-our-stomach feeling to tell us they're around.
  •     Explain that some people feel these products are okay to use but that you disagree. Tell your children that you have thought and read a lot about the subject and have decided that it's best not to take any chances. Explain that this is why you buy alternative products that keep us safe when we use them.

While such talking points can be helpful, children's mental health clinician Louise Chiola says that no one knows better than parents what messages are appropriate for their children. "Every parent has to make their own decision about what to say,” she says. “But no matter what you decide, there are things you can do to make the conversation easier to have and some tried and true strategies you can use to make sure your kids really get the message." To communicate warnings about chemical hazards more effectively, Chiola suggests that parents:

  •     Keep it simple. Use uncomplicated language, short words, and straightforward explanations. Stick to the big picture and don't get bogged down in details. The more basic the message, the more likely it will stick.
  •     Keep it light. Don't frighten kids with dramatic statements or horror stories. Reassure them that they have nothing to worry about, and you simply want to keep it that way.
  •     Be honest. If you don't know an answer to a question, look it up together. Don't leave gaps in your information for overactive imaginations to fill in.
  •     Share your environmental values as you talk. Kids want ethical guidance from their parents, and this is a good chance to provide it.
  •     Repeat yourself. Kids can only absorb so much information at any one time. Let some time pass after your initial talk and then ask your child to tell you what he or she remembers about it. This will identify knowledge gaps and help you correct erroneous impressions.

Several conversations will make sure your children get the point. And once they have, you'll be able to rest easier knowing that they've absorbed some important wisdom that will allow them to enjoy a safe childhood and a happy, healthy life.

photo: redjar

6
Comments

Zorra31P picture
Zorra31P
06/07/10
SarahT: "What about the role that advertising plays in how kids perceive clean? Thinking back, I realize that some of those commercials are probably targeted at kids, not adults - how can we educate our children about the power of advertising & marketing, and how they can understand what it really means?" That is a really good point! I go out of my way to point out advertising messages to my kids, usually before they even question me about them. I make it very clear to them that the point of the commercial is to persuade you, usually so they can get your money, and that it's up to you to think about it independently and decide if this is really a product you need or not, if what they're saying is really true or not, or if this is really a movie or show you really want to watch, etc. They've understood the concept brilliantly and it has definitely stuck with them. They're very astute for their ages (4 & 5) and while they do occasionally ask for a toy or other product they've seen on TV, for the most part they don't buy into the advertising so easily. I was SO proud recently when one of those commercials produced by the Corn Refiners Association ("High Fructose Corn Syrup: Get the facts... you're in for a sweet surprise!" trying to convince you that HFCS isn't bad for you) came on TV and my 4-year-old gasped and she said "Nuh uh! That's crazy! All that stuff is JUNK FOOD, not healthy! THEY'RE JUST TRYING TO GET YOUR MONEY!" Yes indeedy! Good girl. ;)
magichands4u picture
magichands4u
06/05/10
Plastic Bag Tote Materials Needed: numerous white, blue and yellow plastic grocery bags, M hook Finished Size: 15 inches high x 16 inches wide not including the straps Note: Do not use hook that you don't want to break or be stained. I have noticed that my hook has numerous stains of dye on it from the bags, also this is hard on the hook so you don't want to use your good Brittany hooks while crocheting with plastic bags :-) Directions: with white bags ch 28 Round 1 - hdc in 2nd ch from hook and in each remaining ch, working around the backside of the ch hdc in each st, join with a sl st to 1st hdc (54 total) Round 2-5 - ch 1, hdc in each st around, join with a sl st to 1st hdc at the end of round 5 change to yellow bags, do not cut white bags Round 6-7 ch 1, with yellow bags, hdc in each st around, join with a sl st to 1st hdc, cut yellow bags, at end of round 7 pick up the dropped white bags Round 8-10 - ch 1, with white, hdc in each st around, join with a sl st to 1st hdc, at end of round 10 change to blue bags, do not cut white bags Round 11- 13 - ch 1, with blue bags, hdc in each st around, join with a sl st to 1st hdc, cut blue bags, at end of round 13, pick up the dropped white bags Round 14-20 - ch 1, with white, dc in each st around, join with a sl st to 1st hdc, at end of round 20 change to yellow bags, do not cut white bags Round 21 - ch 1, with yellow, hdc in each st around, join with a sl st to 1st hdc, cut yellow bags, at end of round 21 change to white bags Round 22- ch 1, with white hdc in next 7 sts, ch 24, sk 8 sts, hdc in the next 19 sts, ch 24, sk 8 sts, hdc in next 12, join with a sl st to 1st hdc Round 23 - ch 1, sc in next 6sts, work 28 sc around the next ch 24 sp on last round, sc in next 19 sts, work 28 scs around the next ch 24 sp on last round, sc in next 13 sps, join with a sl st in beg sc (94 total) Round 24 - ch 1, sc in each st around (94 total) Here is a way to reuse the excess supply of your store plastic bags!
robert Koier picture
robert Koier
03/03/10
I hate toxicness!!!!!
learnin2Bgreen picture
learnin2Bgreen
02/25/09
I'm a green blogger in Florida who did a post on a book written by some children, about going green. The kids saw my post and all sent comments to me. It was great fun answering their questions and commenting on their ideas, but difficult to keep my answers at their 7 year old level. Great topic for a post. Thanks, Carrie Boyko Organic Journey Online
Seventh Generation VT picture
Seventh Generation VT
11/17/08
I follow John Lennon's lead and tell my kids that all commercials on television are lies.
SarahT picture
SarahT
11/13/08
I'll be honest: as a child, when I saw the commercials showing the bright, shiny, newly-washed clothes on the kids running in the sunshine - I wanted my Mom to use that laundry detergent so that my clothes would look like that. And I thought the smiling, winking bald guy on TV was great - I loved seeing him on the product under our sink. What about the role that advertising plays in how kids perceive clean? Thinking back, I realize that some of those commercials are probably targeted at kids, not adults - how can we educate our children about the power of advertising & marketing, and how they can understand what it really means?