Environmental Parenting

by Tasmin Pesso, PCI Certified Parent Coach®

As a group, parents are the most important people in any society. Our successes and failures are the future of our culture. It is commendable how seriously we take our responsibility. We draw from our own pasts, consult with friends and family, as well as refer to the experts through books, parent education programs, and private consultations, all to help us meet the healthy developmental needs of our children. However, one aspect of parenting is frequently overlooked by the aforementioned resources and that is how to raise our children with sustainable habits appropriate to their current and future needs. I am sure none of us want our worst environmental habits to be part of our legacy.

Now, imagine the powerful impact we parents are having when we raise our children to commute in accordance with our environmental values. We are immediately having an environmental impact with lower carbon dioxide output, while simultaneously supporting healthy behaviors and character traits that will continue throughout our children's future. This quality once integrated will also automatically become part of our children's future parenting practices. That is a legacy to be proud of.

The impact of school bound commutes is significant. In my community in Marin County, California, over twenty-one percent of the morning commuter traffic is to schools with as many as eighty percent of students arriving in single student occupant vehicles. We have begun to turn the tide with forty-two of our schools joining our county Safe Routes to Schools organization by participating in events supporting our children's healthy school commutes as they "walk and roll" to school by: walking, bicycling, public transit, and carpooling. In the event that families cannot do the any of the above, many do partial trips. Then they "walk and roll" the final leg to school so these children can also establish meaningful transportation habits while reducing congestion around their schools.

If you are not part of a carpool and are driving your children to school, please take a moment right now and imagine creating a new commuting habit. Perhaps you have room in your car for additional passengers. Imagine how you might arrange for a carpool that fits your needs. Maybe you live a ten-minute walk or bicycle ride from school. What would your new morning routine feels like? Do you wake up at the same time? Take the same route? What are your mornings like when it is your carpool buddy's turn to drive? It is also important to make peace with the fact that changing a habit takes effort. It often takes a full three weeks for a habit to truly take hold. It may feel funny or foreign, and our children may test our resolve. But, we can make peace with the awkwardness as a natural response to change, and after a while, new habits become a familiar way of life.

Spring is the season of new growth, fresh starts, and a great time to walk and roll to school. Join in. Make less pollution, less traffic, maybe even get some exercise, and have some fun. Through it all, remember what we practice daily with our children makes a difference in the world today, will be the habits they will practice throughout their lives, and are our legacy.

Tasmin Pesso, PCI Certified Parent Coach® is a mother, and the Safe Routes to Schools team leader for the Neil Cummins Elementary School in Corte Madera, California, since 2003.

Copyright © Tasmin Pesso, 2008, all rights reserved. Used with permission.