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A FATHERS PERSPECTIVETeaching our Children about Climate Change, Inspire Hope and Take Action to Change the FutureDean Meldau - Father of two; family of four As a father of two young boys, it's become increasingly apparent to me that there are many things we do as a family of four which has a lasting impression on the planet. Our footprint increased tenfold when we had kids, and I started to think about the impact. Nowadays, younger generations are gearing towards tech, and cellphones and iPad’s have become the norm in any household. I knew I had to make a concerted effort to get my children outdoors to teach them to enjoy nature as often as possible. When we were kids, we would spend hours playing with frogs and catching lizards in the river behind our house, only coming in for dinner when the porch light went on. Today that's become the exception, not the rule.
To my dismay, I very quickly realised that we had become wasteful. Our two young boys didn't know where the water in the tap came from or how important it was to the earth. As is the case in most young households: charming chaos ensues during the evening ritual, bathtubs fill to the brim, and toilet rolls are unraveled at a rate of knots and strewn all over the bathroom floor. Our kids have more toys: rubber, paper, and plastic than they know what to do with, and as the night grows dim, heavy eyelids close to the sound of white noise played off technological devices of all sorts. Photo Credit: Michelly RallMy children needed to learn the art of conservation: and I needed to take responsibility. Climate change is an urgent issue requiring immediate attention. My first port of call was to open up a dialogue around environmental issues and show our children the link between human activity and climate change. How to do it; get into nature.
I quickly dug out the tent, probably four pegs and a pole missing, but nevertheless. I bundled the kids into the car- our first camping trip. Excitement was abuzz as we packed sarmies and snacks, careful not to use any plastic wrapping, and we were off.
On the way, we had conversations about rising sea levels and what the word 'climate' actually means. To my surprise, both boys showed equal interest and concern. How had it taken me this long to have these conversations? We talked about the greenhouse effect and what causes certain species to lose their habitat or to go extinct. Finding a way to relate to the minds of toddlers is the significant challenge. According to a new survey from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, over half, (57%) of child and adolescent psychiatrists reported that they are working with children and young people distressed about the climate crisis and the state of the environment. I didn't want to create eco-anxiety, so I was careful about what was said, but I wanted to teach my children awareness.
Upon our return from what turned out to be a glorious weekend in the mountains, which is now a regular thing - we all went on an excursion to purchase recycling bins. Much to the delight of my two boys, we now get to match material with correlating pictures on the side of big colourful bins. Meat-free Mondays have taken flight, and delightfully both the boys, my spouse, and I are immensely enjoying experimenting with vegetarian dishes. So much so that often it extends to two, if not three times a week. Perhaps soon we will have an entirely vegetarian household if only my six-year-old and two-year-old could be persuaded to give up their much-loved chicken nuggets.
It might sound glib, but I know that if we each do our part, we can tackle the issues facing the future of our planet. I fear that our children's children won't get to enjoy the environment as we know it today. Every little action has a positive knock-on effect, and if we can do our part as a family, then I'll give it my try. Today we enjoy much more outside time and less screen time. The boys have a counting song which they use to wash their hands; it makes them aware of the time spent with the water running. Weekends are now spent in the tent with the missing pegs instead of behind a television screen, even if it's just in the garden! I'm also proud to announce that we may have almost perfected our recipe for meat-free chicken nuggets enough to fool the discerning palates and keen senses of our cheeky and smart toddlers.