Every challenge is an opportunity. The recession is a perfect chance to create a shift in your family’s, and your own, values; a chance to move from want-based, status-based, and impulse spending, to sustainable consumer choices.
Of course, the first step is to that reframe is in shifting your own thought process. In this article you’ll see that in many cases the eco-conscious, sustainable and the financially sound options are one and the same.
It’s not always an easy leap to get from habitual, reflexive, pattern spending to more conscious choices. Here are some simple – even if not always easy – steps to get you, and your family, thinking from a more resilient and ecologically sound perspective.
Reframe Patterns Induced by the Recession to Lessons that Will Last a Lifetime – Or Even Generations.
To begin with, instead of jumping to the blanket thought or statement, “We can’t afford a new (insert-item-of-the-moment-here)!” address the question – first in yourself and then with your child – “Do we need a new (insert-item-of-the-moment-here)?”
Need is a complex idea. It may take a while to rebuild and your family’s and your own thoughts, feelings, and ultimately values regarding the question of what constitutes need. It’s not as simple as just need vs. want. There’s a whole spectrum.
Here are a few things that will help in the process of creating a new valuation of the concept of need in your family structure.
• Casual conversation with your family about what need really means. Using examples of less consumer-driven cultures can be illustrative.
• Age-appropriate documentaries of truly impoverished cultures can help a child who is ready for a more global picture to understand the scale between need and want.
• With younger kids, pictures books, folk tales, and songs can help in redefining values.
• Remembering that giving is a gift. The fact that you are able to give means that you have abundance to share.
• Philanthropic acts, couples with conversation, can shift a sense of need to a a value of generosity. (See my article 5 Ways to Engage Your Kids in Grateful Giving for ideas on how to enact this value and practice.)
• Volunteering at a local soup kitchen with your kids can bring it home that there’s trouble, right here in River City – but not in your home! (Again, see my article 5 Ways to Engage Your Kids in Grateful Giving.) It shows that this level of scarcity exists, but that you’re family is safe from it. When my kids say, “There’s nothing to eat!”, it’s time for at least a conversation about what “nothing to eat” means.
As you educate your kids, it’s healthy, inspiring, and empowering to couple information about poverty and need with stories of positive change. Even more important is introducing ideas for positive change that you and your family can offer to your community and the world.
Little steps your child can take to help make the world a better place will help to turn fear to hope. Projects even as simple as boxing up a few items and offering them to a local charity can go a long way in allowing your kid awareness, without overwhelm.
If your kid has an allowance, you may invite them to tithe, to contribute to an organization like Save the Children or Heifer International. Or, you can start a family generosity fund and decide together where to contribute the collected funds on a monthly, quarterly, around holidays, or randomly.
Consistency in Word and Deed.
During the holiday season of 2007, I asked my tween-aged daughter to seriously consider her use of the word need.
She did, and after her time for contemplation we talked about it. We then boxed up lots of unused household items, toys, and gifts, and contributed the haul to a local free-store. As part of a holiday project a women’s group I’m part of had taken on, the daughter and I bought some items for a Christmas package for a local family in need.
A few days later, I casually used the word need in a conversation with my husband. My daughter overheard it, raised an eyebrow, and said, “Need, mom?” I quickly retracted. She was right. I really only wanted what ever the now-forgotten item was.