The other day I was doing the dishes and took the trash can out from under the sink and found that my kids had thrown away a yogurt container and two plastic cups. This was frustrating for me mostly because of the shame I was feeling that I hadn't instilled in my kids the awareness that would cause them to care about recycling. When your whole life is centered around health and mindfulness, it's so hard to see the lack of it in your own kids! I catch myself being lazy about this sometimes too, so I had to face that as well, no fun!
I paused for a moment, considering the ways I could teach them this lesson in a way that they'd WANT to recycle next time. I pondered taking my anger (shame) and projecting it on them, blaming them for lacking awareness about the effects of trash on the environment (while silently realizing that it was my own shame and not their lack, that was bothering me.) But, I knew if I did that, I'd have to live with myself afterwards, so there went that idea. So, I went with the option of taking this as an opportunity to teach them what is important to me and then allowing them to make a choice as to whether it suits them or not.
I called them all into the kitchen and asked them if they enjoy God's creation. I asked them what they like about nature and the outdoors. Then I asked if they know where all the trash goes when we throw it away and introduced the landfill concept, (ie... we throw away our trash and it fills up nature with trash so we have less nature to enjoy.) It not only gives us less nature to enjoy but it gives everyone else less nature to enjoy.
I had them imagine what it would be like to go on a hike through stinky, slimy trash. Then I said, the less trash we create, the more nature we have to enjoy and when we recycle, our trash gets made into something useful instead of being thrown away and taking away outdoor space.
Next I simply presented them with the opportunity to consider whether they might like to help contribute to keeping Creation beautiful by simply washing plastic and glass containers and putting them in the trash container with the blue lid. I have not seen anymore recyclables in the trash!
Now, I fully realize that there is much more to this story than the kids and their enjoyment, but these are kids and I wanted to make it matter to them. I have learned that if I give a long dissertation backed up with factual evidence, they stare at me blindly and ask if they can have a popsicle.
I'd love to hear your ideas on teaching awareness to your kids!