Different generations don't always see eye to eye, but that doesn't mean you can't find some common ground on issues that affect everyone—such as the health of the environment. Bridging the gap between generations is possible when you take some time to engage and listen instead of simply lecturing about environmental awareness. Here are some ways to approach the topic and share your values heartfully.
Bond through Shared Experiences
One of the best ways to illustrate the importance of protecting the environment is by bringing awareness to the amazing things that nature provides. Instead of lecturing a family member on developing eco-friendly values, share an experience that does all the heavy lifting for you. Depending on your family member's mobility, you might try planning a get-together outdoors. An easy hike or nature walk is a great way to spend some time with family while appreciating your local environment.
As you walk, discuss what you see and what you love about it. When the opportunity presents itself, start to share your thoughts on environmental awareness as it ties into your surroundings. Older generations might be more willing to accept your point of view when it's presented as a genuine concern about protecting the nature you're enjoying together.
Enlist a Third Generation
Recycling might seem like a given practice, but it isn't necessarily one for older generations that didn't grow up with it as part of the norm. When you don't see the recycling process in action, it can be easy to dismiss it and instead throw items in the trash. But finding ways to recycle things at home is a great way to show the many generations in your family a new point of view. Bridge the generation gap on the subject by enlisting the aid of a third generation: your kids.
Your older relatives might not respond well to your lessons on environmental awareness, but if there's one thing you can count on, it's that they love spending time with their grandkids. Set up a fun and easy recycling craft project that your kids can do together with their older relatives. My kids love doing craft projects, and whenever their grandparents are visiting, working on a project is a fun, easy way to gather everyone together.
Engage each generation in the conversation as you work together. Talk about what might happen to the materials you are using if they aren't recycled. Approach the subject in a light, conversational way. No matter what age—whether it's my four-year-old or my parents—I always find that my family members are more likely to absorb what I'm saying and take it to heart if we're having a two-way conversation instead of me simply stating my opinion. Gift your creation to your older family member as a memento, and anytime you visit their home, you can come back to the conversation over the fun memory.
Host Story Time
Sharing stories is one of the best parts about spending time with family and friends from older generations. In the same way that creating a shared experience in nature helps open the lines of communication, asking relatives to tell you about their lives is a great way to get the ball rolling on more difficult conversations. When you take the time to listen to their wisdom and what they have to say, they are more likely to listen to you in return. Ask them about a time they volunteered, a garden they had, or any specific experience that you can tie back to nature or the environment. You can then share your own similar stories. When you find some common ground, you'll be able to approach deeper discussions of environmental values genuinely.
Go on an Eco-Friendly Shopping Spree
Bridging the gap between generations can be challenging because older adults grow accustomed to specific habits, such as the household items they purchase. This could be due to the fact that they are unaware of other, greener options, or they may simply lack the mobility or tech know-how to shop around. You can offer to take your relative shopping and introduce them to eco-friendly choices they might otherwise miss.
If getting out and about isn't easy, you can also offer to do the shopping for them. I've done this with my own mom, and she was pleasantly surprised to learn that she enjoyed using the greener products that she wouldn't have thought to try on her own.
Once you swap out one item successfully, it's easier to expand the conversation to bigger issues of environmental awareness. For example, if your family member doesn't recycle, you might set up a separate recycling bin for them to show them how easy it can be to sort items and minimize waste.
The key to bridging the generation gap and discussing environmental values without resorting to lecturing is finding common ground. Whether it's through shared experiences, similar stories, or a love of crafting with the kids, find ways in which you see eye to eye with your family members, and then use the opportunity to gently segue into discussions of environmental values.
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Why It's Good
Discussing your environmental values with older relatives doesn't have to feel impossible. If you take the time to listen and share genuine experiences, you'll not only find common ground, but you'll also benefit from spending some quality time with your loved ones.