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As a Montessori teacher & child psychologist, I am very cautious about how to talk about difficult events to young children.
Generally, when we want to talk to children about poverty, inequality, wars, & environmental concerns, we mean well.
Montessori taught us that children under the age of 6 learn about the world around them through hands-on and concrete experience. They need to see, smell, feel, hear the "world". They are attuned to their close environment. The worldwide world outside their immediate surrounding is very abstract.
Young children are also very self-centered. We say that they are in an egocentric stage, they understand the world from their own viewpoint. It means that they take everything on a personal level. They cannot distance themselves from what is happening around them as easily as us.
On top of that, they have a very limited understanding of time, the future is very abstract!
So when we expose them to the negativity of this world, we may overwhelm them, we may frighten them and the reaction will be a shut down of their emotions, anxiety about the world that we want them to protect.
So the best thing is to role model without the need to explain why, limiting what is damaging to the Earth without the need to explain what would be the consequences.
It is not being naive or untrue. You protect your children when they are not ready to hear the reality. You give them as much information as they are able to handle. For example, by all means, pick up the trash on your way to the park. And if your child asks why just say "we put the litter in the bin". When children are over 7, in the second plane of development, they want to contribute to society. It's a time when they can understand more but we need to provide them with solutions & positivity as hopeless children don't save the world.
David Sobel, the author of the quote at the beginning of this article, has written extensively on the topic of children and hands-on education and play in nature. His numerous books—from Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors to Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities and to Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators, plus other works focusing on different age levels—offer parents and teachers insights into the value, appeal, and techniques of outdoor experiences for personal, physical, and social growth.
He is also the author of "Beyond Ecophobia". Beyond Ecophobia speaks to teachers, parents, and others interested in nurturing in children the ability to understand and care deeply for nature from an early age. The books includes descriptions of developmentally appropriate environmental education activities and a list of related children's books.
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Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.
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