Smart Parenting
Practical advice about raising children


These Tips Will Help Teach Your Child to Be Green

Going green, or learning to live and work in a way that's friendlier to the ecosystem, isn't just a fad anymore. With irreversible climate change looming on the horizon — within 11 years, if we don't start making changes — going green has become a societal necessity. As parents, that means we have an obligation to teach our children how to take care of the planet before they're old enough to move out on their own. Here are some tips and tricks we've picked up along the way to help teach your children to grow into green-friendly adults.

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1. Be An Example

With children — and you've probably experienced this yourself — the fastest way to get them to do something is telling them they're not allowed to do it. Raising children and teaching them anything means that you need to become a master in reverse psychology — or you need to set an example for them to follow. Kids tend to do as we do, rather than as we say. If you want your children to grow up to be green adults, start making changes in your own life. Be the example that you want your little ones to look up to. If you start walking instead of driving or composting your food waste, they'll want to do the same.

2. Leave The Car in the Driveway

Speaking of walking, start leaving your car in the driveway if you live close enough to walk for your errands. Now we're not saying to sell your car and hoof it everywhere — no one wants to try to haul home a full load of groceries on foot — but saving the gallon of gas that you'll burn driving to the grocery store can reduce your carbon footprint by 20 pounds of CO2. If you're just going for one or two things, or live close enough to school that you can walk with your kids instead of taking the bus, you'll be working to reduce your carbon footprint. This will also teach your children that they don't need a car for everything. Make sure you break out the stroller for young children, and bikes or scooters for older ones to make the trip a little easier.

3. Reinforce Water Conservation

We get it — getting your kids to brush their teeth twice a day is a challenge in itself, but it's also a good time to teach them about water conservation. While we're not facing a water shortage — yet — more than 780 million people around the globe don't have access to clean water. People living in sub-Saharan Africa collectively spend 40 billion hours a year just collecting water.

Teach them to wet their toothbrush and then shut off the water while they're brushing their teeth. This little tiny action can save up to 200 gallons of water a month. Reinforce this as often as possible and it will become a habit that they'll carry with them into adulthood.

4. Teach Them The Three R's

You know the three R's we're talking about — reduce, reuse, and recycle. We've been hearing this mantra since grade school, and it's become more pertinent than ever. Include your children in separating out your plastics and other recyclables. If your city has a curbside recycling program, all you need to do is move your bins out to the curb. If not, take a family trip to the recycling center every week to drop off your plastics, glass, and other recyclable items.

Look for things that are made with recycled plastic or other materials. They're easier to find than you might think. Some companies have even started making playground equipment out of 100% recycled plastic and steel to reduce the environmental impact of your neighborhood playground.

5. Ditch the Paper Towels

Paper towels are convenient, but you're throwing away non-recyclable paper every time you clean up a mess. American's use 13 billion pounds of paper towels every year soaking up spills. While you can compost these towels, you're still wasting paper and your kids will learn those same habits. Ditch paper towels, plates, bowls and napkins in favor of reusable options. Sure it means you have to wash the dishes and throw your cloth towels in the washing machine now and then, but you'll stop contributing to the death of 110 million trees a year.

Lead By Example

The best thing you can do to help your children grow up into green adults is to lead by example. Make the changes in your own life that you'd like to see them learn. They'll mimic you and turn those behaviors into habits that they'll carry with them throughout their life.

Sustainable Travelling: How Travel Teaches Kids Respect

Nowadays, more and more buildings are being built in mass-populated cities and it is no wonder that taking care of our planet while travelling is vital. Trying to contribute to keeping our beloved planet intact and protected from pollution is not an easy task, especially if you are a parent. As parents, we should strive to teach our kids the best values in life, one of which is teaching them how to protect planet Earth and showing respect toward our natural habitat. Along your riveting journey, you can easily do that in a fun and educational way.

Opt for Environmentally-Friendly Transportation

Before you head out to your vacation, sit down as a family and carefully consider where to go. Choosing the ideal place that won't harm the planet should be your mutual decision. Explain that it is beneficial to go somewhere near home if they are going to go by car. Planes, buses, and cars release emissions that are extremely harmful to the planet, and if you cannot go anywhere exciting by bike, by using public transportation or on foot, the car might be the best option. You can search for ecotourism options, as well, that support sustainable development. Whatever you do, be environmentally conscious.

While In Motion

Going on an eco-friendly trip by using public transport may be the best solution since you’ll be protecting the planet by not emitting negative gas and not promoting air pollution. However, if you have small kids, who require a lot of attention, then you had better go by an electric car. While travelling it is important to keep a watchful eye on your kids so as not to throw garbage and food leftovers from the car and pollute the soil. For that matter, you might want to find useful baby mirrors that are great for both small and big toddlers, enabling you to keep their behavior in order. What is more, while you are in motion you can talk to your kids about the importance of being respectful toward the planet, and you can play road trip games that will help them learn about endangered animal species.

Choose Destinations That Lessen the Negative Impact on the Planet

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Cars are still better than planes, and there are an abundance of locations to choose from. Make your kids invested in the trip by asking them about their preferences, and then come to the most effective green conclusion. Tell them that they should pick a less crowded travel destination, where they can see animals and wildlife in its natural habitat, and where they can protect the natural areas. Every year the World Health Organization issues World's Best Ethical Destinations list where you can see what are the ideal eco-friendly places for your family to go to. These ethical destinations are perfect for teaching your kids the values of respecting the Mother Nature and for teaching them the basic rules of respecting wildlife while still having loads of fun doing it.

Do Fun Sustainable Activities

Children tend to get bored easily, and when you are aiming to teach them the values of respecting the planet while you are travelling you should make it interesting. Whether you are at the beach or in the mountains, you can do numerous sustainable activities as a family. Make recycling a fun activity for kids and get them involved by sorting out garbage diligently. If they sort out the trash accordingly, they are in for a reward, or whoever finishes faster gets to choose what is for dinner. You can have thrilling outdoor showers together instead of separately taking long baths inside. You will save water and cut energy costs. Have fun walking instead of using transportation, and get off the beaten path and immerse with the locals in order to learn about a different culture. 

Immerse With Nature

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Kids absolutely adore spending time out in the open. Teach them to respect the park rules when they are playing, specify the importance of staying on trails, and that they should not climb trees or pluck flowers. Explain why certain natural areas are protected and why they can only indulge in its beauty by looking at it. Boost up your sustainable travelling while playing entertaining games that benefit the planet. As you walk you can play Planet Earth trivia or Bingo, or they could name the animal or plant species that start with a certain letter.

Teaching kids the severity of respecting the environment should be done both on the road and at home. Sustainable travelling gives them the opportunity to see how they should live with respect and compassion towards nature.

Do Not Let Parenting Stress You Out

Parenting does not always have to be a stressful job. There are ways to take care of your kids and your family without always getting stressed out on a regular basis.

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Here is a list of techniques that a parent can use to help manage the anxiety of taking care of the kids.

1. Share the responsibilities of being a parent with your spouse: Do not try to do everything all at once. If you and your spouse can learn to work together then parenting will not be as stressful. Your stress will decrease when you share the responsibilities in taking care of the kids.

2. Do not put off tomorrow what you can do today: Things have a tendency to build up if you keep putting them off. Do what you can do today. If you have to help your kids with a school project, then try to get started today instead of waiting until the end of the week.

3. Learn to pace yourself: Do not try to do everything all at once because you will get burned out. A person can only do so much in a particular day. Stay organized and focus on one task at a time. This will help you to manage your stress.

4. Take some time to relax: Taking part of the day off to go shopping or going for a walk in the park will help you to relax. Let a babysitter or your spouse take care of the kids for part of the day while you do something that will help you to relax.

5. Learn from other parents: It is a good idea to talk to other parents on how they manage taking care of their kids and other family issues. Getting advice from other parents can help provide different ways on how you can take care of the kids.

6. Learn how to manage your stresses and anxieties: Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week or coming month, try to focus on today. Being a parent does not have to be that stressful. Finding ways to cope with your stresses will help you to enjoy taking care of the kids. If you have trouble doing this, then seek the services of a professional.

How Parents Can Help Their Children Deal With Today’s Mental Health Issues

Do you worry about how your son or daughter can handle today’s mental health issues such as bullying, peer pressure, depression, and addiction?

Here are six suggestions a parent should follow in helping their children overcome the pressures of being a teenager in today’s stressful environment.

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1. Talk To Your Teenager On A Regular Basis: One of the most important things a parent can do is to talk to their children about the current issues that they may be dealing with. Do not bombard your son or daughter with endless questions and do not get argumentative. Establish some kind of dialogue between you and your children so they will be willing to talk with you.

2. Education Is Key: Both parents should be familiar on the issues of bullying, suicide, addiction, and other mental health issues. Every teenager should be aware of the resources that are out there to help them and they should be aware of where to go for help.

3. Watch Out For Any Red Flags And Do Not Assume Anything: If you notice any changes in your teenager’s moods or behavior, do something about it by discussing these changes with your son or daughter. If things get serious, then talk to a counselor for some advice. Do not assume that your teenager is going through some kind of phase or they will snap out of it.

4. How To Encourage Your Children To Talk To You: Many teenagers are reluctant to talk to their parents because they are afraid their parents will get angry and take it out on them. Some teenagers may think their parents won’t be able to understand their situation. With this in mind, try to establish a sense of trust with your teenager and encourage them to come to you when they are struggling.

5. Get Advice From Other Parents: If you have trouble getting your teenager to open up to you, try talking to other parents to see how they talk to their sons and daughters. You may get some helpful insights on how you can successfully engage your children.

6. See Things From Your Children’s Perspective: Many parents engage their children from their own point of view. Another helpful suggestion is to try to see things from your teenager’s perspective when dealing with their problems. Once you see things from your teenager’s point of view, you will be better able to get your teenager to open up to you.

The Benefits of Moving Your Family to a Foreign Country

While moving your family out of the United States may seem like a daunting proposition, there are actually many positives that can come with immersing your household in a completely different culture. Even nations like Great Britain or Canada, which have many similar attributes to American life, are distinct from the U.S. in their own ways. Here are some of the benefits of — as well as a few considerations for — moving internationally with your loved ones.

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Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

The Benefits

Here are just a handful of different life-changing aspects of life abroad with a spouse and kids in tow:

  • Experiencing different cultures: The impact of observing another nation with its unique culture, geography, culinary tastes, styles, and heritage is hard to understate. The eye-opening nature of understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around any one nation or people group is revolutionary and can be extremely beneficial in rounding out the worldview of parents and children alike.
  • Medical options: While the debate over the U.S. healthcare system is an old one, the plain fact of the matter is that better healthcare can sometimes be found in other places. Certain medicines, procedures, and therapies are prohibited in the country, leading many to go abroad to seek treatment.

An easy example of this is the availability of marijuana for medicinal purposes, such as coping with chronic pain or anxiety, in certain areas. There are numerous positive and helpful uses for cannabis and its products, like CBD oil, in the health world. However, the fact that such products tend to be illegal throughout most of the United States can make utilizing the treatment difficult. While there are exceptions such as hemp-based CBD oil, many cannabis products are restricted in the U.S.

While people should consult their physicians before leaving the country for treatment, there’s no doubt that there are many options out there that just aren’t available domestically.

  • A change in scenery: While the United States has many beautiful landscapes, there are countless other gorgeous geographic locations that can enable your children to broaden their horizons. Participating in activities like hiking world-renowned mountainscapes, learning to surfing on famous beaches, or visiting historic cities and locations that are so old they make the U.S. feel like it’s a brand new country are unforgettable experiences.
  • Language: While this one can also be a challenge, the positive benefits of having your children grow up bilingual or even trilingual are benefits that will continue to aid them throughout life. It will unlock the doors to new cultural experiences, as well as potential employment opportunities down the road.
  • Developing character: One of the most rewarding elements for a family living abroad is the deep emotional character that can be built all of the previously listed benefits that come with living in a foreign country. The challenges that are involved in learning to survive and thrive in a different culture can help bring a family together and teach everyone, from the parents to teenagers, kids, and even toddlers, lifelong skills.

Considerations for Moving Abroad

While the benefits are many, there are still many considerations — particularly when you’re weighing the benefits and costs of transplanting an entire family unit to another country for an extended period of time.

While cultural differences were already brought up as a positive, it is still something that should be carefully considered. The steep learning curve that comes with acclimating to a foreign language and culture can be both challenging and draining, especially for children. Parents should plan to regularly check in on how their children are doing with managing the changes.

Life’s staples should also be considered. Where will you get food and housing? How do these vary from their U.S. counterparts?  Something as simple as a different plug for charging your phone or being unaware that water in a city isn’t safe to drink can cause issues if not properly addressed. In addition, how will you move around? Are there public transportation systems you can use? Do people drive on the same side of the road?

Visas are another element that should be carefully considered beforehand. New Zealand, for example, while a travel hotspot, still requires a visa. Even once you have your visa, the work isn’t done. Eventually, you’re going to want to consider if you’re going to embrace the expatriate spirit and become a citizen of your new country. If not, make sure you have a plan to renew that visa on a regular basis so that you don’t end up deported.

Work considerations are also key. For example, many of the top spots to relocate to are in Europe. If you end up choosing a location in the EU to relocate, you may want to create a Europass CV to streamline any future job searches in your new home. You’ll also want to go into any new work system with knowledge about how things like taxes and insurance function.

Finally, make sure to consider different medical systems. Whether it’s better than the U.S. or not, any foreign medical system is likely to function differently than what you’re used to. If a medical emergency arises, you’re going to want to know exactly what to do without hesitation.

While there are many risks and tips to keep in mind, it doesn’t dampen the fact that living abroad can be one of the most beneficial, life-changing events that a family can experience. The deep character building that comes through participating in a different culture makes it one of the greatest adventures life has to offer.

Activities to Get Your Aging Parents and Your Children Interested in the Environment

There are a number of ways to empower your aging parents and your children to engage with the natural world, and doing so can lead both generations to become more conscious of environmental issues, such as climate change and conservation practices. The available fun activities your parents and children can share to learn and grow together are endless, with the right mindset and some ingenuity.

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How we interact with the Earth and our daily habits have a direct effect on the environment. Our choices of whether or not to recycle, what kinds of arts and crafts we choose to do, and where we volunteer our time can all impact our natural world — for better or worse. Fostering a relationship around the following activities can aid in making both your parents and your children more aware of the need for environmental protection and why it is important to try to implement more sustainable living practices into our daily routines.

Gardening

The importance of building an eco-friendly home and backyard for your child is often underemphasized, and gardening offers so many different facets of learning and connecting with the environment available in your own backyard. Additionally, experts have drawn a parallel between working with soil and psychological benefits for all ages, such as reducing symptoms of depression. Seniors benefit from working in the garden due to the low-impact activity which keeps them moving.

Start with planting trees in your background and creating an eco-friendly garden with your child to raise their awareness of nature. You can also establish a vegetable garden to show them where their food comes from and the effort it takes to grow it. Both children and their grandparents can take pride in reaping the benefits of their hard work, as well as helping the environment. On top of trees, planting a diverse vegetable garden can help to restore depleted soils and promote the growth of healthy bacterias.

Nature Walks

There are many fun activities that seniors and children can do together that allow both participants to get some low-impact exercise, such as nature walks. Moving at a walking pace through nature allows for a more captivating experience than one would have on a bike or in a car. It provides you and your loved ones the opportunity to stop and explore when you feel called to do so. Taking nature walks may also help your parents and your children establish a deeper connection to a place. The more a person can connect with somewhere, the more likely they are to take action to protect it.

Education

Additionally, nature can serve as its own diverse classroom — offering biology, geology, ecology, and wildlife science lessons while resting from a spot under a tree. You or your parents can also use this as an opportunity to teach your children about pollinators and how important bees are to our food system. It may help to alleviate any negative feelings that your children may have associated with bees.

Environmental education has a variety of positive impacts on young learners. As noted by Concordia University, it can:

  • Teach students to serve, protect, and participate with their communities
  • Promote citizenship and social responsibility
  • Influence learners to consider the long-term condition of the world they will inherit
  • Teach real-world problem-solving skills

Volunteering

Communities are constantly looking for volunteers to lend a hand in a variety of different ways. From fundraisers for conservation efforts to participating in river cleanups, there is a broad range of opportunities for your parents and children to choose from. Grandparents can set a leading example for their grandkids in how to give back to their community by showing up or organizing events that serve the environment and the community. Volunteering has also been shown to have many benefits for seniors, from keeping depression at bay to preventing dementia — an additional reason for your parents to be volunteering after retirement.

Bonding

Finding ways to bring together your parents and your children should not be thought of as difficult. Even if your parents have physical disabilities, help put together some of the following activities to create a deeper bond between the two generations and the environment:

  • Storytelling: Have your parents and your children get together in a green space and share stories about memories of when they have spent in nature with one another. Perhaps you live in an area where your children have never seen snow or the ocean, but your parents can share the experiences they have had.
  • Nature art: Anything in nature can be used to make art. A single pinecone can be taken apart to create a piece on the ground. It is a valuable lesson for children on the ephemeral nature of the natural world as they watch the wind carry it away.
  • Share pictures: Everyone loves beautiful places and seeing photos of them. Go through family albums and share some of the places that both your parents and yourself have spent time and how they have changed today.

Even if your parents have never considered themselves environmentalists, they may feel compelled to set a good example for their grandchildren. With the activities outlined above, they can engage with both nature and their grandchildren. It can create small changes in their own behavior, such as finding themselves picking up litter where they never would have felt compelled to before. Such actions have a domino effect when shared with others — encouraging your parents and children to be environmental advocates may, in turn, create a few more!

How to Choose an Eco-Friendly Vehicle for Your Teen Driver

Getting a driver’s license is a right of passage for every teen. And while that prospect is scary for most parents, you can have at least a little bit of oversight on your teen, even when he or she is behind the wheel.

When the time comes to purchase a vehicle for your teen, you want a vehicle that has a slew of safety features and is also gentle on the environment. Fortunately, it’s easy to practice eco-friendly driving, and there are myriad choices when it comes to environmentally friendly vehicles.

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Types of Eco-Friendly Vehicles

There are more eco-friendly vehicles on the road than ever before, and you may be overwhelmed by the choices. For instance, are electric vehicles better for the environment than hybrids or cars that run on vegetable oil? How do autonomous vehicles fit into the picture?

Your first step in choosing an eco-friendly car for your teen driver is to set a realistic budget. Then, start comparing your options. Studies show that autonomous vehicles save drivers time and improve roadway safety, but more research is needed to determine if they are more eco-friendly as well.

As for hybrids, they are by and large more eco-friendly than their gas-guzzling counterparts since they run on a combination of petrol and electricity. The majority of hybrids are built with lightweight materials, and lighter vehicles typically require less gas to operate than heavier vehicles like trucks and SUVs.

Another eco-friendly option is a car that runs on biodiesel. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, biodiesel is nontoxic and biodegradable, and it produces fewer air pollutants than traditional diesel fuel. In the U.S., biodiesel also comes with an additional perk: the biodiesel and renewable diesel tax incentive. Through 2024, taxpayers can claim credits for purchasing alternative fuel.

Eco-Friendly Driving Practices

You’re the best driving teacher your teen has, so start them off with eco-friendly driving best practices from the first time they’re in the driver’s seat. Many eco-friendly driving practices double as safety measures, giving you peace of mind when your teen is behind the wheel.

Driving at lower speeds improves your gas mileage, helping both your wallet and the environment. Encourage your teens to stick to the posted speed limit and drive smoothly to avoid “jackrabbit” starts and sudden stops.

According to the National Center for Sustainable Transportation, driving 65 mph on the highway rather than 75 can reduce fuel use by 13 percent. If your teen drives 55, it could reduce fuel costs by 25 percent. Both options will save you money and keep your teen safer on the road.

Another major player when it comes to your teen’s safety behind the wheel is smartphone use. Distracted driving is one of the primary causes of roadway accidents, leading to 3,450 fatalities in 2016 alone. When your teen puts their phone away while driving, they’ll be more attentive to their surroundings, improving safety for everyone on the road.

Top-Rated Eco-Friendly Vehicles

When you’re buying your teen’s first eco-friendly vehicle, there are myriad choices at your disposal. Look for vehicles with SmartWay certification, which is awarded to cars and trucks that emit fewer emissions than traditional vehicles. In addition, look for models that qualify for a federal income tax credit. Most electric vehicles and many hybrids qualify for a credit of up to $7,500.

As for make and model, you may want to invest in one of AAA’s Top Green Vehicle award winners. In 2018, the top three award recipients were the Tesla Model X 75D, Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier, and Nissan Leaf SL. All three vehicles are electric. The AAA rates vehicles based on a variety of criteria, which includes fuel economy, safety, and performance.  

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) also rates cars based on their energy efficiency and environmental impact. The ACEEE’s choice for “greenest” car in 2018 was the Hyundai Ioniq Electric hatchback, which can get up to 124 miles on a single charge. It’s the second consecutive year that the Ioniq claimed to ACEEE’s top spot.

If the AAA and ACEEE award winners are any indication, electric vehicles seem to be the most environmentally friendly choice.

Final Thoughts

In our climate change-affected world, it’s more important than ever to find ways to reduce our carbon footprint. Since Americans spend an average of 293 hours behind the wheel each year, it makes sense to look at your driving habits to see where eco-friendly changes can be made.

And when your teen is the one behind the wheel, you want to ensure they’re safe as well as environmentally conscious. By doing your research to find the best eco-friendly vehicle for your budget and driving habits, as well as teaching your teen eco-friendly driving best practices, your teen will enjoy eco-friendly and safe driving for years to come.







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