Personal experience has taught me that children are very receptive to the actions of their parents or guardians. As a mother of two with a large age gap, I find that everything revolves around leading by example.
My eldest has recently turned ten and will soon be embarking on the quest of tweenhood. As such, I’m finding it especially important to instill values in him now, before we reach that stage of testosterone fuelled rebellious behaviour that I have so often been forewarned about.
To any passers by who may be reading, a little update on my journey thus far. I have, within the past year, been making a conscious effort to live both more sustainably and frugally in order to gain financial security and reduce my carbon footprint. I have an avid meat eater as a husband-to-be, an almost tween who is obsessed with minecraft and his phone, and a toddler who only likes to nap in the car when I’m driving, so no, I’m not doing things as perfectly as some. But such is life, I believe making the effort to incorporate small changes is better than making none at all.
Which brings me to my main subject of intrigue. Raising a Mindful Child.
Children are like sponges, they retain an insane amount of information and we often don’t give them enough credit when it comes to how adept they are at copying what we do. So it’s the best time for life lessons to be introduced.
Mindfulness. What is mindfulness? In my opinion it is simply awareness of both ourselves and the world around us. It is understanding that with every action comes a reaction and with every decision there is a consequence. As adults we already know these things, yet are rarely mindful of the actual actions and decisions we make. It’s too easy to fall in line with the majority and become a slave to fast fashion and industries that rapidly deteriorate our earth. Sometimes through choice, other times out of pure unenlightenment.
As a child I never received an education that incorporated the health of the world, I knew nothing about sustainable materials, composting, recycling or even healthy eating. My food technology classes rarely mentioned food groups and nutrients and were more about how inventive we were with the toppings on a pizza, (or at least that’s all I took away from it). These are all things I learned as an adult, but there is nothing to say that we cannot teach our children the importance of these things.
Here are five ‘lessons’ I have begun to explore with my children in the hopes creating a more mindful outlook on life for all of us:
Whether it’s via an app, youtube, class or no aid at all, meditation is something that can easily become something normal to do as a family. All it requires is five minutes of quiet. I explain in a calming tone to my children what it is we’re doing, how to focus on their breathing and sit still. My toddler finds this more difficult than my ten year old does, but will often try to copy.
- Recycling & Composting
The recycling is my eldest’s main chore. As a ten year old it is easier to explain to him the difference between what materials need to be recycled and how to read the packaging to determine what can’t be. My daughter needs more guidance but is still eager to put things in the appropriate bins when they’re handed to her. It makes for a great sorting game. Composting is something we’re relatively new to, mainly because of my squeamishness, however, if I can find a transparent compost bin, I’m betting it will make for a great project for the children, and may help to curb that unnatural fear of creepy crawlies.
- Wasteful Behaviour/Money Management
Saving is a very important part of life, regardless of what stage we’re at. Whether it’s saving money for our children, our retirement, holidays, a home etc. We all need to know how to do it at one point or another. My son is currently saving for a console (the condition for him owning one, is that he buy it himself). Of course the money comes from us, but it has become normal for him to earn it, whether it be via completing chores or being extra helpful. However, we have also started to show him ways that he can make money, through upcycling projects or getting rid of things that he has grown out of or no longer wants. A perfect example is his old bike. He recently sold it to a lovely gentleman via facebook, but before he did so he had to clean it up and take the pictures to upload it. After all, it was going to a new home and had to be in good condition. He no longer buys random magazines at the shop with his pocket money and instead has started squirreling it away in his account.
I love cooking. Unfortunately, my kitchen does not love me cooking in it. The space is very small and hard to navigate in with two children, yet still we make it work. My daughter will help getting me things out of cupboards, mixing while standing on her stool or ‘washing up’ while my son and I prep other things. It makes for a messy time, however, I would much rather my children reach for the food in their cupboards when they’re adults than their phones to order a take out. At this age I find it’s just about building their confidence in the kitchen, as well as incorporating a little bit of sneaky maths when getting my son to measure things out.
- Exercise in Nature
Lastly, I’ve tried to make a conscious effort of getting out in nature with the children. We’re lucky enough to live in an area of England abundant in parks, lakes, commons and woodland. Every walk is different and not only do we get exercise, we are also able to appreciate the unspoilt greenery that it’s so important to preserve. Although I’ve left it until last, I find this to be the key lesson I’ve been teaching the children. How else will they understand why we’ve been making the changes we have? If I can foster a love of nature in them at a young age, I can only hope that it will continue as they get older and rub off on whoever may enter their lives as they grow.
We are but beginners on our journey, and as time goes on I will be making more changes in our lifestyle and teaching the children more about our role on this planet. After all, earth can breathe without us, we’re the ones who can’t breathe without the earth.