Talking to Your Kids About Eco Issues Without Terrifying Them

Recently, I heard the water go off in the shower after what seemed like only a few seconds. My son couldn’t possibly have had time to wash his hair, or even his body in those few moments. After barking at him to turn the water back on and finish up, he calmly responded that he was in the process of shampooing his hair and had turned off the shower while he was soaping up to save water. Well, that shut this green-minded mother up quickly. My little eco-angel was two steps ahead of me—a water conservationist in my own house.

After seeing a documentary in school about water shortages, my son had become deeply troubled over the possibility of running out of water and was doing his part. On one level, I was proud of his conservation efforts. On the other hand, I didn’t want him too freaked out about massive water shortages, clearly a very scary concept (have you seen the trailers for Blue Gold, or Flow?) Not to mention, I wasn’t sure his sparse use of water would sufficiently keep him clean.

It got me thinking. How do you balance making your kids aware of environmental issues without scaring them that the world is going to end?

I spoke to my son about his concerns and reviewed ways to conserve water. You know the drill: turn the water off while brushing your teeth, run the dishwasher or washing machine only when it is full, fix leaks as soon as possible. (Click here for a more extensive list.) And then I found a timer that he could set up in his bathroom to make sure that he took showers that were under five minutes. I told him that he could save up to 1,000 gallons a month if he did that.

Hopefully, by directing his attention to things he can do every day to conserve, some of his bigger fears will be alleviated.

Does anyone have any advice on how to talk to kids about these big scary issues?


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