In the search for balance, it can be difficult to navigate good and bad, right and wrong. Many of us want to live a more mindful and sustainable lifestyle, making thoughtful decisions and engaging with concepts like conscious consumption and responsible thinking in our daily lives. These big, important concepts can be intimidating and abstract for adults – and even more so for children.
That’s why we sat down with Flemming Møldrup, a partner and strategic advisor within responsibility and sustainability at Märk, a Danish consultancy agency that specialises in responsibility that we at ferm LIVING have been working together with for several years. In addition to being an expert in responsibility, Flemming is also a father to teenage daughter. We asked Flemming about how to tackle big issues like responsibility with the youngest members of the household, and how to initiate them as playful conversations.
“My daughter picks up information from newspapers, social media and television. These topics are a part of her life, so I think it’s a good thing that I’ve spoken to her about them from early on.”
How do you talk to your children about sustainability and responsibility?
First and foremost, I think it’s important to listen to their concerns. Just listen. What are they saying and what are they afraid of? Then try to talk to them about those concerns. Remember, these are their observations and not yours. Try not to bring your own worries or concerns into the conversation.
How do you broach the subject with a younger child versus an older one?
I think the younger the child is, the more hands-on you need to be. There are simple ways to implement activities and actions with a younger child that may have difficulty understanding the broader picture. Find things that you can do together, like picking up trash when you are walking outdoors. Initiate a conversation about why you’re doing it and what it means – here, the conversation can be small. For an older child, you need to ask about and address their feelings on the issue first. You can them meet them where they are on the subject and initiate a conversation about their concerns.
Responsibility and sustainability can be intimidating subjects for adults to discuss – how do you talk about it with children in a way that doesn’t overwhelm or intimidate them?
Keep your own concerns out of the conversation. Let them know that it’s being handled by adults and that even though it may seem impossible – everything is possible. For me, participating in the climate rallies in Copenhagen with my daughter has been a great conversation starter. It shows her that I am also concerned about these issues and it’s a way for us to share how we feel about it. During and after the rally we talk a lot about what’s going on. And I always try to stay away from the doomsday topics.
Why is it important for us to have these discussions from an early age?
I’m not a psychologist, but I know from my own daughter that she feels, senses, listens and talks about the state of the world – with her friends, at school and other places she goes. She picks up information from newspapers, social media and television. These topics are a part of her life, so I think it’s a good thing that I’ve spoken to her about them from early on. In our talks, I have always approached the subjects from the point of view that we are trying to fix things, so the world is not ending. And I believe that’s a good way to have those conversations - make them hopeful.
Flemming’s top tips on how to start a playful conversation with your child about responsibility:
Participate in events: rallies, book readings, theatre – search your local area to find out if there are any age-appropriate events that could inspire your family to have a conversation about responsibility.
Initiate activities and actions: find small acts of responsibility that you can do together with your child, like picking up trash when you’re outdoors and start a conversation about what you’re doing and what it means.
Listen: Make sure to listen to your child and hear about their concerns as opposed to telling them what yours are. This will provide you with a great basis for starting a hopeful, playful conversation.