Raising environmentally aware children: perspectives of a mom working in urban forestry

Dr. Adrina C. Bardekjian

Director, Research and Engagement, Tree Canada

I am a convener. I am interested in the bridging of things, the connections between people, their stories, ideas, and lived experiences.

Over the course of my career, I have been privileged to work with non-traditional allies in the pursuit of better and more equitable and inspired urban green spaces. I have met extraordinary people doing remarkable things in the interest of helping the environment thrive for civil society. And now, seeing the world through “mom-tinted” glasses has made me realize that women become exponentially more vulnerable and equally more resilient when they have children.

When we think about the cultural, historical, and language associations related to motherhood – one of the most obvious that comes to mind is Mother Earth as a concept and accepted global cultural norm. The dominant socially accepted representation of motherhood is nurturing and self-sacrificing. In reality, there is a disconnect with the way mothers are perceived, and often judged, for their decisions. Whether that involves becoming a mother (biologically or otherwise), not wanting to be one, or just about any aspect of parenting along the way.

My Lived Experiences

Growing up as a first generation Canadian of Armenian descent, throughout my childhood, the most important concepts of home and safety included: heritage and language, exposure to various cultures and geographies, and the support my parents offered as a foundation to explore diverse experiences. As a result, in my professional adult life, equity has been a thread woven through my work for almost 20 years.

As a mother working in the environmental sector, having recently returned from maternity leave, my perspective on working in urban forestry has changed. There is a stronger sense of urgency (with a fraction of the time!) to be more intentional and proactive about our care for natural spaces and places. What’s most interesting for me in this journey is exploring strategies to curtail eco-anxieties and raise resilient and more environmentally aware children.

Fostering Routines in Nature and at Home

kids hugging tree

Educating and guiding my children towards this mindset by spending time in nature is a priority. We often walk through parks and dive into the landscape collecting and discarding flowers, grass, leaves, pine cones, and sticks! Sticks and sticks and more sticks! We investigate insect galleries that line fallen logs and course woody debris along the forest floor, we hike hills that their short legs can manage, and dance in the rain while searching for worms. We discuss the tree names and co-create stories about their lives and what they have seen over time.

Together, we share environmental values and integrate environmental consciousness into our home through various art projects, games, and the books we choose to line our libraries. I’m curious to learn about other moms’ experiences and tips for bringing environmental awareness into your child’s consciousness through play.

Carrying Beliefs About Urban Forests into Parenting

These are some of my experiences having returned to work with two toddlers in tow, and attempting to navigate the new world challenges. As I integrate concepts of multi-cultural and multi-generational philosophies, influences, and beliefs about urban forests and greenspaces into my parenting, I am specifically drawn to learning about, and sharing perspectives of safe spaces (fears and inhibitions), sacred spaces (mythology and symbolism), creative spaces (artistic interventions), and wild spaces (bias and belonging).

My hope is that I can instil upon my children the love of learning as my parents did for me, and guide them towards finding their own happiness and connections with nature.


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