After having many conversations with my own children about the environment and what it means to do our part, I recognized that a big part of teaching stewardship is ingraining responsibility into the fabric of your household. Think back to your own childhood and the habits your parents may have taught or passed down to you. Whether it's how to do your laundry, or what kind of brands you stock your cupboards with, you carry on their behaviours simply because it's what you've always known.
As a part of my work with Seventh Generation, I am inspired by the message of caring today for seven generations of tomorrow. I believe we each have the opportunity to make our children environmental stewards by instilling our values in them, and leading by example each day. In my family I like to say I did a "rebrand" of responsibilities. This involved finding different ways (besides nagging) to engage each family member in household duties. I worked on cultivating their independence with the goal of helping them understand the value of contributing to the larger goal of our household to be kind and respectful to each other, our home and our environment. By empowering them to take ownership of their daily chores, I re-worked the way we approach doing chores at our house. And the outcome resulted in a cleaner home, less work for mom and dad and an impressive level of self sufficiency from my children ages 10 to 16.
In order to be set up for success at school, kids need to be engaged in the school preparation and planning process. This means that kids must be involved in planning and preparing their snacks and lunches for the week. They should help clean and select their clothing and should also be in charge of creating their weekly schedules (including chores, sports practices, music lessons, etc). This requires a weekly family rally point (I choose Sundays after dinner) to meet and go through a meal planning chart on a large chalk board in our kitchen.
Before school starts, sit down as a family and create some family goals for the school year. This can relate to activities, schedules, and even performance in school. Be sure to also suggest some sustainable family goals and actions based on what is important to you. For example, if your goal is driving less and walking more, the action is to map out a walking route, safety plan, and schedule to make it to school and work.
Overall, back to school is the ideal time to set a new standard of what you and your family can do to help care for seven generations of tomorrow.
Gillian "Gill" Deacon is a Canadian author and broadcaster, currently the host of Here and Now on CBLA-FM in Toronto. Before working in radio, Deacon was a television broadcaster.