To raise a little green family means letting go of what the mass media tell you, and learn to go back to nature, and raise a child using your own wisdom, with a little help from experts who have gone before you. So out go plastic toys, McDonald’s Happy Meals, junk children’s TV and sweets at the checkout. And in come biodegradable baby soap, organic cotton clothing, rubber wellies for splashing in puddles on nature walks, and natural ways to send your child to sleep. It may not create much ‘economic growth’, but you’ll have a happier and healthier child!
To be a greener parent can be difficult in a modern world that encourages consumerism, mass media consumption and lack of parks and other natural spaces available. But these books can help to make it a bit easier, often it requires some vision and imagination, rather than heaps of money and access to ‘made natural spaces’.
If gardening with children and you live with animal friends, know that many plants are toxic to pets. See make garden areas safe for pets (also avoid cocoa mulch, pine mulch & fresh compost). Use no-dig methods to protect earthworms. If growing food, see humane methods to deter slugs & snails.
- Zero Waste Kids is a fun colourful book to help children cut down on waste. They’ll find 30 child-friendly challenges to reduce waste including lifestyle changes and learning about the state of our planet, and what happens when we over-consume.
- Growing Sustainable Together is a unique book for parents on how to raise children with respect for the earth, animals and each other, in a sea of consumerism. Packed with easy tips for toddlers to early teens, each chapter includes a ‘what to know’ section that breaks down sustainability knowledge like energy efficiency and renewables, and how to instill anti-waste and anti-consumerist values. From better transport and food choices to developing a lifelong love for environmental activism and volunteering.
- The Natural Baby is a green guide to parenting, which takes readers from conception to the first year, with tips on pregnancy, birth, skincare, natural remedies, nutrition and exercise. Includes a Natural Dad section in each chapter.
- The Green Parent is a beautiful magazine founded on a Cornish holiday some years ago. This quality publication has regular and guest writers on every subject, and parents can ask questions at the reader forums, if they are new to green parenting, where they will find friendly support and expertise.
- Frugi offers beautiful organic cotton clothing for children (and nursing mothers) along with organic cotton bedding, green toys and bamboo dinner sets. All clothing is made ethically in India, and sent in biodegradable packaging, made from potatoes! Babies with Love also sells organic cotton clothing, with profits helping babies in need.
- The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting is a no-preachy guide to getting your child outside in nature, and caring for the planet. From foraging for dinner to making green decisions, this book is not about being perfect, but about giving it a try.
The Sustainable Guide to Green Parenting is for anyone who has a small person and wants to do something to help the planet for the next generation. From nappies to the travel system to toys and meals and cycling. From washable nappies to school uniforms, family holidays to travel, and sift through the greenwashing to get the right answers.
The New Parents’ Survival Guide is a simple and easy-to-understand guide for new parents. Learn to thrive during the early months of parenthood with this book, which is packed with practical advice and bite-size tips:
- Care for and bond with your newborn
- Advice on breastfeeding & bottle-feeding
- Supportive guidance on breastfeeding concerns
- Ways to soothe your crying baby
- Baby sleep tips
- Manage your baby’s minor ailments
- Essential self-care for mums and dads
Antenatal and postnatal health advisor Sally Lewis says this book is like having a very reassuring mother or best friend beside you, offering help and support as you begin your journey into parenthood.
Paint a Double Rainbow offers 40 mindfulness activities for you and your child to do together, so you both reap the benefits. Mindfulness reduces anxiety and stress, improves focus and concentration, and creates calm.
If you would like to share mindfulness techniques with your own little one, this book is just the ticket. From enjoying ‘silent sandwiches’ to sharing moonlight gratitude, this charming book helps you to develop a mindful toolbox, and incorporate mindfulness into daily life, for deep lasting bonds. Together, you and your child can have fund exploring:
- A quick guide to mindfulness (and its benefits)
- 40 fun activities to practice mindfulness
- Stress and anxiety busters (breathing, focus, being kind)
With this playful book, you and your child will discover how mindfulness for kids can transform your lives. Here’s an example exercise from the book:
Get your silly on! This breathing activity is fun and interactive.
Decide who starts, and then take turns. The first person calls out an animal like “Cow!”
Together, take a deep breath in, then breathe out the sound a cow makes.
Inhale and say “Mooooo” as you exhale.
The second person calls out a different animal like “Cat!” Together, take a deep breath in, then breathe out the sound a cat makes.
Inhale and say “Meooooowww” as you exhale.
Take turns naming animals and making animal sounds together all the way through the exhale. What would a horse breath sound like? What would a dolphin breath sound like?
Sally Arnold has created such a treasure. This book will bring mindfulness into the family experience in a way that kids will love. JG Larochette, Mindful Life Project
A jouful compilation of short, simple, tender, playful, and creative mindful and heart-full practices for parents (and other adults) to do with young children. Amy Saltzman, MD
About the Author
Sally Arnold is a mindfulness educator, speaker, author, and parenting coach. She is the founder of Mindful Compass, an organization that offers courses designed for families, corporations, and general audiences. Sally has taught mindfulness to thousands of children and implemented whole school mindfulness programs.
Mindful parenting feels better, because it’s a new style of parenting that takes inspiration from mindfulness meditation, which has been used for thousands of years in the East, to bring up children to be calm and happy, and the same as adults. Parenting is undoubtedly a stressful business. But mindful parenting makes things easier not just for you, but also for children. Why not give it a go, in these stressful times?
- 5-Minute Parenting Fixes is a book to help parents with busy lives to solve many modern dilemmas, in a pinch. Rather than spend time online with overwhelming search results, find tried-and-tested advice to help: Encourage good behaviour, Ensure children have healthy body images, Ensure homework is done, with minimal fuss, Children play nicely together. With no-nonsense solutions, this book can help boost your confidence, when making important parenting decisions. Author Liat Hughes Joshi is a London based freelance journalist and author, who writes on parenting and lifestyle issues.
- The New Parents’ Survival Guide is a simple little guide for babies up to 3 months. No matter how much you longed for your baby, no-one is quite prepared for the impact a new arrival has on life. Learn to thrive (not just survive!) during the early months, with this little book of bite-sized tips. Learn to care and bond with your newborn, find advice on breastfeeding and find ways to soothe a crying baby, and help your baby sleep. You’ll also find tips on managing baby’s minor ailments. Essential self-care for mums and dads is included.
What is Mindful Parenting?
Mindful parenting is simply the act of living and being in the moment, rather than letting your ‘stress flight or fight’ syndrome kick in, when you have a screaming toddler, angry teenager etc. Whether your child is yelling for sweets a the check-out, screaming blue murder just for attention, or you have a ‘I hate the world!’ teenage tantrum, mindfulness can help you to restore calm within your own head.
Unlike most times (although for teens it’s sometimes possible), you are not allowed (by law, even if you wanted to!) to go off and have some mindfulness meditation. If you have a crying baby in the street or the mother of all tantrums in the supermarket, you will have to stay put. This is where we see the slightly deranged parents who start off fairly calm, but then start shouting or sometimes slapping children, in a bid to calm them down. And of course, it very rarely works. All that happens is the child gets upset, you get upset (especially later on when you’ve calmed down). And you feel too embarrassed to enter the same shop or venue again.
Clinical psychologist Dr Dan Siegel writes that parents ‘fly off the handle’ so quickly, they often are not even in ‘thinking mode’. Lack of sleep and ‘the terrible twos’ can turn the most Zen parent into Thor! This then creates new feelings of confusion and guilt, if the parents lose it – especially if it upsets the child, or is in front of others. Mindful parenting is basically learning to develop habits of ‘counting to 10’ before you erupt. This way, most situations can be diffused, before they get out of hand.
Regular mindful parenting can lead to calmer children overall. A child that participates in outdoor nature play, is raised by calm kind parents and lives on nourishing food, is likely to be more easy to raise anyway. Too many food colourings, stimulants like TV and loud music (and arguing parents) do not a mindful child make.
This is not about being a saint, or telling others how to raise their children. But to care for others, you have to care for yourself. So transform from frazzled to fairly happy parent, with the help of the books below. You can if you wish also take an online 8 week mindful parenting course from The Mindfulness Project, based in London.
Books for Mindful Parenting
- Present, Not Perfect for Pregnancy contains thoughtful guided prompts and beautiful colour illustrations, for every modern mother-to-be.
- Hot Mess to Mindful Mom offers small tweaks and changes that can lead to big results, to leave stress behind in favour of calm and peace.
- Breathe, Mama, Breathe is by psychotherapist Shonda Morasli, who outlines the benefits of daily meditation and shares over 60 mindful breaks to help mums tune into their own well-being. These include a breakfast with no phone, TV or newspaper.
- Mindful Parenting is by mindfulness guru Oli Doyle, who offers a 6-week guide to become present in the moment. A short and simple book, it focuses on parenting, relationships and work, and how to be calm in all three.
- Raising Good Humans shows how a kind and compassionate world, starts by raising kind and compassionate kids. Rather than reacting to stress by yelling, learn how to respond thoughtfully in stressful moments and keep your cool using mindfulness skills.
- Read Mindful Parenting for ADHD. This book by a child doctor offers a proven method to address various symptoms using non-technical language. Learn to let go of judgement and lower stress levels for yourself and your child, to cultivate balance and harmony at home and at school.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
It’s difficult enough being a mindful parent. But if you have a child with a disability or learning disability, it no doubt must be more difficult. One particular challenge is if your child is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Known as ADHD, this according to some is a ‘made-up disease’ that occurs with children who are not disciplined properly. Of course, that’s bunkum. It is a disease, and recognised as such by doctors, who likely know more than tabloid journalists.
The symptoms of ADHD appear early, and most children are diagnosed between 6 and 12 years old. As well as temper tantrums, they also suffer high anxiety and insomnia. Of course, the mission is to know the difference between a child experiencing the normal ‘terrible twos’ and a child with a genuine disorder. What is mostly concerning is the side effects of drugs like Ritalin, where the side effects can be worse than the illness. The children can literally in some cases turn into zombies. One side effect is long-term depression, so the unfortunately child may go the other way in adulthood, and not be bothered to get excited or upset about anything, rather just stay in a low-level fog.
The risks associated with ADHD include premature birth and low birth weight, and addiction abuse during pregnancy. But any child can be at risk. There is no official cure, although mindful parenting obviously can help to calm down a child who suffers. Daily mindful routines encourage good social life and sleep. What is known is that being outside in nature, is highly beneficial. It’s common sense that sticking a child on drugs and shoving him or her in front of the TV all day, is not the solution.
In the US, Amen Clinics are healing children of ADHD without the use of drugs. They do this by looking to France for inspiration for that its own country, where children are taking nearly all the world’s ADHD drugs. Unlike America, French doctors look at lifestyle factors to including diet (we all know that the French eat better than Americans). They also factor in emotional trauma, food allergies and behaviour modification. And despite the fact that UK and American parents are more likely to yell and smack their children – in fact, French children (like many other European nations) have stricter discipline.
Not through verbal or physical force, but through simple respect. It’s not unusual for French, Swedish, Italian or Dutch children to never have a tantrum. In a nutshell, ADHD is not caused by ‘bad parenting’. But it’s not be helped by ‘stressed parents’. Regular mealtimes with proper food (not a trip to McDonald’s) and set times to sit down and eat and talk as a family, accompanied by regular time out in the woods, could go a long way to help.
Richard Louv is a respected author, who writes and campaigns on the right of children to enjoy outside nature. His talks with doctors have found that although they see less children with broken bones (falling from trees etc), they see a lot more children with stress or repetitive strain injuries (from playing computer games). He writes that when he was a child ‘nature and the woods was his Ritalin’. He is saddened in interviews (one child told him: ‘I like to play indoors better, as that’s where all the electric outlets are’.
In medieval times, if someone displayed the symptoms we now identify as boredom, that person was thought to be committing ‘acedia’, a ‘dangerous form of spiritual alienation’, a devaluing of the world and its creator. Richard Louv
Do Food Dyes Cause Hyperactivity?
We have all heard about the food dyes in fish fingers and orange juice. A few years back, all children seemed to be drinking Sunny-D, a disgusting tasting liquid that masqueraded as ‘fresh fruit juice’, when it was anything but. It quickly fell out of favour, after the (true) story of a girl from Wales, who went yellow after drinking it. It’s true that any yellow or orange drink will tint your skin if you drink enough (some people drink lots of carrot juice to get a suntan). But this was something else. And people often bounced off the walls, from all the artificial ingredients. There is a myth that these dyes have since been banned. Most haven’t. So just feed your child natural food. Juice an orange!
According to the NHS, the 6 food dyes closely linked to hyperactivity in children are:
- Tartrazine (E102)
- Quinoline Yellow (E104)
- Sunset Yellow FCF (E110)
- Carmoisine (E122)
- Ponceau 4R (E124)
- Allura Red (E129)
These are mostly found in soft drinks, sweets, cakes and ice-cream. Jamie Oliver once wrote that feeding your child conventional sweets is like ‘giving them ecstacy’. If you like your child to enjoy sweets, then feed some natural fruit-sweetened ones as treats (Just Wholefoods is a good brand). It’s a bit concerning that the NHS goes on to recommend that it’s fine for children to eat and drink all the other E numbers. One would have thought ‘eat a nourishing diet made with natural foods’ is the best advice coming from NHS.
Did you know that in France, there are no ‘children’s menus’ in cafes or pubs? Children just eat smaller amounts of the parent’s meals. A plate of ‘children’s sausages and chips’ would be looked at in disgust, by any Francophile. Same as in Italy, Spain, France and probably everywhere else. A study of ADHD children in Europe found that symptoms greatly diminished (over 50% reduction in 70% of children) when junk food was stopped, and proper food at set meal times was brought in.
What About Smacking Children?
Did you grow up with the odd smack? Likely it did little harm, but of course there is a huge grey line between a quick smack if a child has his or her finger in the socket, and abusing children. The simplest answer is just to ban smacking. This way those at risk are better protected. What becomes worrying is if parents get up in arms over the right to smack, even if it’s banned.
In fact, smacking is banned already in Scotland (with Wales soon to follow). In England, Child Law Advice states that ‘you don’t have the legal right to smack your child unless it is ‘reasonable punishment’. Those last two words sound quite harsh enough. It is illegal for anyone other than a parent to smack a child (other than a babysitter or nanny, if the parent has given permission).
Yet smacking we know doesn’t work. Just like as training a dog with kindness (never hitting or scolding) is the kindest and most effective way to raise a pup, the same is for children. For both species, smacking causes fear and lack of trust. And that’s never good long-term. It was only in 1986 (just over 30 years ago) that it became illegal for schools to cane children.
Child doctor Robert D Sege says any kind of physical punishment as children, can lead to aggression and long-term mental health problems, later on in life. Obviously most children don’t turn into serial killers. But it is a fact that nearly all have suffered abuse as children. So what do the main political parties think on smacking? Welsh Conservatives were against the ban, and the Green Party appears to be the only party with an official ban policy.
Sweden became the first country on earth to ban smacking. This was swiftly followed by other Scandinavian nations, and today almost 60 countries have outlawed the smacking of children. You would think that Sweden had a history of not smacking, as they seem the gentle sort. But not at all. Although corporate caning was outlawed 30 years before England, nearly all parents smacked their children before the law was introduced. It showed how countries can change swiftly, once laws are enacted.
One reason given for the low levels of corporate punishment in Sweden is that the state gives good parental leave. So often there are two parents at home, or less stressed parents (they know they have paid parental leave and a safe job to return to). Although Scandinavian children start school later, they start pre-school earlier. So experts noted that it was more difficult to cover up bruises, for abused children.
Simple Happy Parenting is a book for calming parents & happier kids. Denaye provide a revolutionary approach to parenting, packed with practical tips to help you step back from the system overload that is common in modern family life. From easier meal planning to mindful shopping, worry batching to waste reduction, this is an honest and practical roadmap for all families, striving for balance. Start with the Simple Manifesto:
- Buy less
- Fear less
- Referee less
- Hurry less
- Entertain less
Then begin your journey to simple by embracing a new lighter way of life in your home. Discover how to foster imaginative play, and how a carefully smaller wardrobe reduces stress. And how structured nourishing meals create relaxed family dinners.
Expand the simplicity to your mindset. Learn how letting go of fear provides children with valuable opportunities to grow and develop: positive discipline strengthens family relationships, and inviting more unscheduled time in your calendar, gives your family space to thrive.
About the Author
Denaye Barahona is a mother and wife who lives just outside of New York City who grew up in Ohio. They currently enjoy life in the country where she uses her experience to help other parents. She has a Ph.D in Child Development, and is also a clinical social worker with a post-grade certificate in behaviour analysis of children. She has spent much of her career working with parents who deal with challenging behaviour in children (eating, sleeping, screaming, cussing or hitting).
These magazines for green parents, make a nice change from the usual newsagent or supermarket fodder. You will rarely find these on the stands. So unsubscribe from those, and subscribe to one or two of these instead. All focus on simple green living, outdoor activities (like playing in the mud), and ethical organic choices. Also see interesting magazines for children.
See foods to avoid near pets. Avoid essential oils near pets, children & pregnancy/breastfeeding. See plants & trees to avoid near pets (avoid cocoa/pine/rubber mulch & fresh compost near pets). Use humane safe slug/snail deterrents & no-dig garden methods. See safer alternatives to netting for wildlife, if used. Many plants (inc. yew & oak trees) are toxic to equines.
- The Green Parent is a beautiful intelligent publication, which has been edited for years by a small expert team. Each lovely issue includes all kinds of interesting information. Sample articles include rewilding your child, mindful parenting and dismantling racism at home.
- Juno Magazine can sometimes be found in indie health stores. This is a real ‘earth mother’ magazine with articles on environmental issues, organic clothing and sustainable living. Sometimes includes interviews with female entrepreneurs (like the founders of organic clothing companies People Tree & Frugi).
- The Natural Parent Magazine is from the other wide of the world, but you can still subscribe. The latest issue features a free pregnancy journal and articles on breastfeeding, raising babies in lockdown, strengthening pelvic floor muscles and a cut-out fox glove puppet!