Eco-Friendly Families + Getting Kids to Take More Risks

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I am joined by Stephanie Seferian from the Sustainable Minimalists Podcast. We are chatting about realistically moving towards sustainability and raising kids to love our Earth.

I'm also answering a question from Kara, she asked: How can I get my kid to take more risks?

  • Part I: Eco-Friendly Families [@ 3:01]
  • Part II: How can I get my kid to take more risks? [@ 41:15]

Denaye Barahona: Hi there and welcome to episode 215. Today, we're talking about raising eco-friendly kids and I'm also answering a question from an audience member and that question is how do you encourage a cautious kid to take more risks? Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler, more intentional life. In this show we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us.

Denaye Barahona: Hello and thank you so much for tuning in. Today I am introducing a new format. I am bringing together both of the weekly episodes into a single episode. So this episode is going to have two segments. We're going to first talk about raising eco-friendly kids and then I'm going to take a question from an audience member. Before we get started today, here's a 60-second word from this segment sponsor. The sponsor is Prep dish and if you've been around the podcast for any amount of time, you know that I love prep, dish Prep Dish is a meal planning service and it's something I never knew that I needed with an abundance of recipes available to us. Online decision fatigue is real. I noticed for me what Prep Dish does is they streamline that. Each week, Prep dish sends me a week's worth of recipes. Not only is it just a list of recipes, but those recipes are broken down so that I can spend one day prepping the ingredients for the week.

Denaye Barahona: Once I do that single day prep, the actual meal preparation on the day that I'm serving that dish is simple. Perhaps my favorite part of moving towards the meal planning service like this is that my husband can help me with the meal prep on the weekend. That way I feel more supported and it makes my life a lot easier when I'm putting the finishing touches on the meals starting the week, so I would encourage you to try it. Right now, Prep dish is actually offering a special meal plan that's freezer and pantry friendly, so if you go to prepdish.com/pantry you'll get that free one-week meal plan. All right, back to today's episode. We're talking about eco-friendly kids. If you want to skip ahead and get to the question for today, go to minute 41 where I'm answering Kara's question, which is how do you get cautious kids to take more risks? I'm excited to have Stephanie Seferian from the Sustainable Minimalist podcast joining me for this conversation today about eco-friendly kids. This week, we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of earth day and I'm thrilled to have Stephanie joining me for this casual conversation. Today, Stephanie and I are joining together to talk about making slow and steady changes to move towards a more eco-friendly mindset in your family. Without further ado, here's chat with Stephanie.

Denaye Barahona: Hi Stephanie. Thanks for joining me today.

Stephanie Seferian: Hi Denaye, thank you so much for having me.

Denaye Barahona: It's good to have you. It's good to talk with you live and sort of in-person, right?

Stephanie Seferian: Totally.

Denaye Barahona: So Stephanie, you have a podcast. Tell me about your podcast and how you got started on that.

Stephanie Seferian: My podcast is called the Sustainable Minimalist and it is all about living simply but also living sustainably with a family, with young children. And I got into this first by looking around the minimalism community and thinking, heck yes, that's what I need. I'm stressed out, I'm overworked, I have way too much stuff I need to minimize. And when I went down the minimalism road, I loved the camaraderie and the motivation to declutter, but I did not love the like just throwing all your perfectly good stuff in the trash that just did not sit right with me. And it made me think, well maybe I'm not a minimalist. Maybe that's not my, that's not where I should be. So I thought, okay, maybe I'm an environmentalist. So I did what most generation wires do. They joined a lot of Facebook groups and then I joined like all the zero waste groups and in those groups, I found a lot of education.

Stephanie Seferian: I learned so much. But what didn't gel with me and those groups was that it was a very black and white, very right and wrong, and I didn't feel like with two young kids, I have two daughters, six and three now. I didn't feel like as a young mom, I could always be on the right side of environmental issues. There's sometimes some corners I needed and wanted to cut. So I searched the internet for a place or a person talking about minimalism with an eco-friendly slant, and I just, I really couldn't find that person anywhere at the time. This was about maybe four years ago. And this is the God's honest truth without much thought at all. I just, I bought a domain name and I just went, I just started blogging from there. It started as, you know, me blogging my successes and failures and it's now grown into a podcast and a book almost at the end of the year.

Denaye Barahona: Exciting. So I love this because you're talking about realistic sustainability, which is something that I am very passionate about because actually there's just no other possibility for me other than realistic sustainability. Perfect. Zero waste is just not ever going to happen for me and my family and I read something recently that compared the value of 100 people going zero waste versus a million people just doing a little bit better. And I definitely am in the latter camp. I feel like if so many of us just did a little bit better, we'd be so much better off and we don't have to strive for perfection when it comes to sustainability.

Stephanie Seferian: Totally. I think that especially on social media, on Instagram, there's a lot of pretty pictures of pretty cabinets and pretty pantries and zero waste this. But I don't feel as though, at least for me, and it sounds like for you to in real life, that's just not real life, right?

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, it's, it's too hard. And this is really cliche and I've talked about this a couple of months ago on the podcast with my husband and we talked about sustainability. And for me, this idea that sustainability has to be sustainable. If it's too hard to execute or if it's too expensive to execute, I'm not going to be able to stick with it. And I think that happens to a lot of people.

Stephanie Seferian: I totally agree. It has to be not an extra upfront cost and it has to not be an extra burden on over stressed parents' lives.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And as we move through Parenthood and different seasons of our lives, we're capable of doing more in or where sometimes we need to do less. And I think that's okay too. I never want anyone to feel ashamed about the fact that they use Ziploc bags for example. Right. And yeah, I feel like that it's easy. Like you said, it's kind of black or white, like it's not that we have to be thrown into one camp or another. I think we can all learn how to do a little bit better and the world would be better off than just a couple of us kind of going all in and zero waste on everything.

Stephanie Seferian: Yeah. I totally advocate for incrementalism. Wherever you are. I mean, I'm sure there are some listeners listening to your show right now who would consider themselves advanced in sustainable behaviors. Right? So, and of course on the other end of the spectrum, there's people who are beginners. But the point is that there's more that all of us can do wherever we start, if that makes sense.

Denaye Barahona: Yes. We can all do a little bit more and do all do a little bit better. And I actually had someone write in a podcast review after I talked about this with my husband something along the lines of, I listen to Denaye's sustainability episode and she's not doing any better than the average person. I kind of laughed because I'm also okay with that in many senses because I'm not striving to be perfect. I just am striving to be intentional and learning a little bit more and teaching my kids a little bit more along the way. So I think, and that's kind of part of the whole journey of Simple Families, is the idea that we are not striving for perfection. And I think that moving towards sustainability can in many ways turn into sort of this, chasing of perfectionism. Have you seen that at all?

Stephanie Seferian: Totally. I feel as though, I'm trying to think of the most diplomatic way to say this. It's almost as either you're doing it right or you're doing it wrong. It's very black or white and if you're doing it wrong, it can also feel as though you get a little bit. shamed, I guess would be the word. I don't agree with that at all. I don't think shaming has any place in environmentalism and keeping this planet habitable for our children.

Denaye Barahona: Yes. I couldn't agree more with that because I do see a lot of shaming around environmentalism. And I mean, I think back to really basics of human behavior and the way to motivate and to increase behavior we want to see more of is to be supportive and to be encouraging. So using shame to get people to be more environmentally friendly is just useless and ineffective. But it happens. I think it happens widely and I find it rubs me the wrong way and I know that it rubs a lot of other people the wrong way and I feel like it will also rub my kids the wrong way if I shame them for doing things that aren't environmentally friendly. So especially when it comes to my family, I've tried to be extra careful about being encouraging, encouraging and positive and really kind of teaching the value of making better decisions rather than forcing it or, or shaming it. I love that. So your kids are about the same age as mine are four and six years, yours are three and six. And I know it's this idea of being more sustainable is hard for a lot of adults to understand. How do we get kids to understand, how do we get them on board?

Stephanie Seferian: It's such a good question. And it's something I've thought a lot about because on my podcast I get to talk to a lot of moms and I always ask them before or after recording, you know, what, what are you doing to teach sustainability? And the answer I often hear is that there's not actually much active teaching going on. It's more passive. The people just assume that kids are going to pick up on low waste or environmental ideal because their parents feel that way and act that way. But I would argue then that if a kid is watching their parents, they're also then watching their friends and television telling them to buy, buy, buy and buy some more. And so I don't if we're going to assume that children are always watching, we have to keep in mind what all the different things that they're watching. I think parents, I think we need to be more active and how we teach not only what sustainability is, which is complex in its own right, but also why exactly it is so important and different ages. Of course you would need to tailor that instruction.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, that's a good point. In the early years as parents, we are the most influential people in our children's lives, but the older they get, the more they're impacted by their peers and their teachers and other adults and everyone. So I think in the early years we can really feel like what we're doing is making

Denaye Barahona: a huge impact. And it is. But as they get older and better able to understand these things, there are things that we can teach them. And the first step I guess is learning those things ourselves. So at this age, in the early years, what sort of things do you feel like have been helpful in teaching your own kids about sustainability?

Stephanie Seferian: So the first one and the most fun for everybody is to make sustainability into a game. My kids love games. I think all young children love games, but they not only like games, they also like to win. And so I try and make sustainability lighthearted and fun. So one of the things we do every night at bath time is we have a washable crayon or a bathtub crayon. And the night before we put on the side of the bathtub where the water was that night.

Stephanie Seferian: And, every subsequent baths we try and beat that by having the water go a slightly less. So, I'm trying to teach them there that we don't need to waste as much water as we think we do. Water is a non renewable resource and we did the same thing again with brushing teeth. We don't leave the water running. We use little cups and my three year old makes a gigantic mess with spitting her water everywhere. But again, the purpose here is using less water and making it like lighthearted and joyous and something that they're going to tell their own kids when they're adults someday, their crazy eco-friendly mom made us with water. But that's the number one way, the number two way with the young kids. And I just, I would assume this would work for older kids too, but is personalizing the why.

Stephanie Seferian: So like why is doing things with the environment in mind important? And I don't think that children of any age, I don't even think that adults really like a lecture. Right? So if you can tell them why it's important to them, they're immediately more invested. So my daughter, my six year old, she is obsessed, obsessed, obsessed with shrimp. And that's neither here nor there. That's kinda gross to me. But she loves shrimp. But when she understands that it's important to keep waterways clean because if we don't, she may not have that opportunity to eat as much seafood as she would like. She's immediately more interested. Or for a kid who loves to ski, let's say global warming will potentially mean shorter ski seasons. Personalizing the why so that the kid gets invested is a really powerful way to making them care on a deeper level.

Denaye Barahona: Right. We know that kids have to be connected to learning in order to really retain it and to make it a part of their value set. So I do think that's really helpful to connect it to things that they love and to things that they're passionate about. And one of the other things that stands out to me is getting kids outside. And I never really understood that the connection between the outdoors and a love for the outdoors and sustainability. but it makes so much sense if you think about Scandinavia where rates of sustainability are at their highest in the world. And then the idea that kids spend hours and hours outside from the earliest from year one of life, kids are outside for hours a day taking naps outside and they fall in love with nature and they grow to want to protect it. And I think that's something that kids here in the U S don't get exposed to as much. And sometimes we have to be more intentional about it.

Stephanie Seferian: If they don't love nature, if they don't love the natural world, then why would they fight or why would they go out of their way to protect it? Right. So I definitely think there is a connection there between spending an awful lot of time outside and becoming more environmentally minded as adults.

Denaye Barahona: Yes. Do you, do your girls like to be outside? Do they go out without hesitation or do they take a little convincing?

Stephanie Seferian: They love it. Especially as the weather is now improving. I live outside of Boston, so the weather is improving now and I'm homeschooling, which is new and interesting for all of us. But the morning is for my six year old for doing work and the afternoon we are outside all afternoon in our yard. And I like, I mean that's a whole nother tangent is the whole homeschooling thing. But I like to think that one of the benefits, one of the silver linings is that my children are outside a heck of a lot more now.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And especially since most kids are home right now, I think we all have the opportunity to get outside, but I don't think that every kid loves to go outside. I know that my daughter is definitely one to wander outside much more easily than my son. My son takes a little bit more convincing, a little bit more pushing to get out there and sometimes the adults in our house do too. And sometimes we can label our kids as outdoor kids or not outdoor kids are nature kids and I don't necessarily think that's the case. I think that once we get them out, they will start to fall in love with it. I mean, as humans we were born outside, we belong outside. So I think that there is, everyone has the potential to fall in love with nature and as a result some amount of sustainability. but we just have to really open our minds to that possibility.

Stephanie Seferian: And I would say on a personal note, it can be really hard for me to get outside, especially when the weather's not absolutely perfect. Right. But there are countless studies that highlight the natural world and it doesn't even have to be like a walk in the woods. It can just be going outside on mood. And so it's kind of, for me, it feels like just do it, just do it. And on the other side, you know, you'll feel good. It's like exercise almost.

Denaye Barahona: Yes, it always feels good. You never regret it. It's just getting out there is usually the biggest part of the battle for sure. So when raising eco-friendly kids, one of the hardest things that I've found is saying no to stuff and getting rid of stuff is one thing, but saying no to it and never bring it into your house to begin with is another part of the battle. Do you find that you feel like a mean mom when you say no to stuff? No. Okay. I don't either but I know a lot of people do. I think I did but now it doesn't. It feels easier. It's gotten easier with time.

Stephanie Seferian: It's definitely gotten easier with time for me and I think I just play the long game. I look at the big picture. I think it's important to say no to our kid. It's really actually quite vital that we say no to our kids and the kids, kids are kids. They don't have the knowledge or the wisdom to discern hype from reality. Right? They need us to do that. We are their parents and that is our job. I don't have any problems saying no to them, but because on the converse, when I say yes, it's actually a really big deal.

Denaye Barahona: Like, if you're ever traveling, go to the McDonald's drive through or somewhere where they have like little plastic toys like that. What do you all do? What do you all do in that situation?

Stephanie Seferian: So we do not so much go to McDonald's, but when we're out and about and we're in a store, let's say, and they want a toy, I mean they're lined up at the checkout, let's say. I almost always say no. I mean that's, I consider that junk culture. I don't see that benefiting my children's development and I don't see it benefiting the earth that is going to sit in a landfill for 450 years. I would much rather take my money and give my children either A best case scenario is an experience that's really going to enrich their lives or B a toy that promotes some cognitive function.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, it's hard to say no to free stuff though. And I think that, I don't know, I find that free stuff can inundate our kids if we're not careful, especially when it comes to like trinkets and like that. All like things from the dentist after you leave you from the dental treasure chest and that kind of thing. Do you find those kinds of things pop up in your life? A lot.

Stephanie Seferian: Okay. So when you mentioned the dentist, heck yes. We come home with a mini suitcase sized, like treasure trove of junk from the dentist because it keeps my kids entertained and I do struggle with that. And also freebies like free tee shirts from sports or trophies or goody bags from birthday parties and for those things. if it's possible to just say no to them, like a tee shirt here, a tee shirt there, I'll say no. But for the other things, we'll bring them into the house. We'll play with them for awhile and then unfortunately they will be discarded.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And it is hard to do that. But I do think that sometimes we do need to bring it in. You always have to balance between being overly rude and, and the environment. Because I do, and I know that not everyone's gonna agree with me on that, but if my dentist takes my kids to the treasure chest after their appointment and I say, Oh no, we don't allow that junk into our home. I mean that's offensive. Straight straightly told I do you think that that's offensive and I always worry about finding that balance too. Yeah. I don't think you have to say those words maybe, but I mean, even if you don't use those words, that's what you're saying. Even if you say it nicely, I think that sentiment is still there. Like, Oh no, we don't bring that stuff home. Or even if you don't call it junk, I think the implication of junk is there. I don't know. Can you think of a way of saying it that would be a little bit more polite and not imply that they were offering your kids junk?

Stephanie Seferian: So I think what I would probably do is I would tell my kids that if they sit quietly and behave, they will get some type of reward when we get home. I don't even know off the top of my head what that would be. It would probably be a chocolate which would drive that dentist absolutely nuts and then I would just kind of screwed around the issue and just say thank you so much. Thank you for your generosity, but no, and just leave it at that. I don't feel like I need to like offer that dentist an excuse I guess. I don't know.

Denaye Barahona: Or a judging comment. Like that's what I always fear. I don't want to leave them with this sort of bit of judgment as I'm, as I'm walking away. But maybe something like, Oh like I think we're going to skip those today or I think we're going to skip the treasure test today. Saying something like that maybe maybe would set a little bit better with dentists and those who are offering little treats or trinkets like that. I dunno. But it's always a balance, right. Finding the words to be polite and at the same time honor our values and raise our kids in the way that we want to be raising them.

Stephanie Seferian: Right. Because where we're raising our kids in a culture that values disposability right. Everything's disposable. So to try to do differently to try and raise them against the norm is, is really hard. And the balancing act never ends. It never gets easier. So just for any listeners out there struggling, just know we're all on the struggle train with you.

Denaye Barahona: Yes. And one, one of the ways that this comes up, so both my kids were born in Texas and we lived there for three years after my kids were born in five years total. And in Texas and in the South monogram culture is very strong. And I know I have a lot of people from the South listening, and forgive me for saying this, but I have always felt like monogramming makes really amazing, beautiful, high quality objects into single use disposable pieces. and that has always been something that I feel like is this balance. And there are people that really value monogram shirts and bibs and blankets and those are a deeper part of their culture. But then there's people like me who think that it's just kind of kind of ruined stuff because then, you know, if you have a bib with a baby's name on it, you can't even use it for your second child. Really.

Stephanie Seferian: I hear that. I hear that deeply because my daughters have some really nice receiving blankets, have really, really high quality materials that are pristine, right? They, somebody paid a lot of money for these blankets and they could definitely be passed on fun. But because they're monogrammed, they're going to sit in, in the keepsake box and that's it. That is hard. That's really hard.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I think having a couple of monogram things, things that you know, that you're going to want to keep forever or things that you're going to want your children to have when they grow into adults. I think that that is fine, but I do think that it is something to give consideration to. I mean, there are things that are disposable, like this things that we treat as disposable objects and childhood other than it's not just the plastic McDonald's toys, right? There's things like really nice pieces of clothing and baby gear that we sort of turn into disposable when we monogram and add those personal touches to it. I think I probably made a lot of people mad by saying that.

Stephanie Seferian: bring on those negative reviews.

Denaye Barahona: I know it's like one of those things that I feel like does need to be said even though it's painful to hear. I dunno. I just think about how much stuff comes in and out in the early years as kids are growing and it is so hard to be intentional about particularly kids' clothes as they outgrow them. it's expensive to buy high quality kids' clothes and things that can be passed on now. It's expensive, but not impossible. And I think that when we're trying to be intentional about it, that it's, it's just tricky. The whole journey is tricky. Have you found that buying more sustainably in terms of clothes for your kids has been difficult?

Stephanie Seferian: So I'm gonna back up a little bit and just say that when my first daughter was born, she was gifted. And when I say hundreds, I'm not even exaggerating. A hundred or more frilly, beautiful high quality dresses. And I have wonderful friends and family and I am so grateful to them. But I learned very quickly that she grew so fast and you know, she couldn't wear all this stuff because of the speed of her growth. And then also because second time moms know it's not about the frilly dresses, it's about the one, the Zippy what is it? The zip-up onesies. Right. Now that my kids are older and they're growing a little bit more slowly, I am not buying clothes for my children new because they stain them, they ruin them and they're expensive. So I've considered that to be a waste of money. I will borrow from a friend who with a child who's a little bit older who doesn't mind, I will take hand me downs. I will buy second hand and I feel like that really takes the pressure off of me to keep their stuff pristine because I have learned that it is almost impossible to keep those high quality expensive items pristine and they're six and three. Do they really need to be wearing this couture?

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, my daughter definitely wears dresses everyday. She loves dresses, I'll call them play dresses, but they're dresses that she could dress up or dress down. I don't, they're not play dresses in the sense that they look like they're all stand up and dirty. They're just higher quality cottons that wash well so they don't get stained up as easily. And we do sometimes put some dressier shoes with them and take her somewhere where she needs to look a little bit nicer, but at the same time our lifestyle is such that we don't really get dressed up all that often and neither do our kids. And I think sometimes when we're shopping for our kids, we underestimate that. Like how often do your kids really need dress clothes and maybe they do. Often mine don't. So I have to be really mindful of that when I'm shopping for them every year.

Stephanie Seferian: Yeah, and you bring up a good point too, which is when we do buy clothes, whether it's for our kids or for ourselves, it's from an environmental perspective, it's really important to be buying the better quality stuff, the organic cotton as opposed to the polyester. I could, I could give you a bazillion examples here, but because you know, the cheap stuff is cheap for a reason. there's a lot of corners that are cut that a lot of waterways are polluted and in the making of those things. So from an ethical perspective, if you don't want to support those industries, you do need to show a lot more money for the better quality stuff. But then the balancing comes in with the fact that they are kids and they're going to wear it for a very short time and maybe, or probably might stain it, so I secondhand whatever I can, and I do it shamelessly with a smile on my face.

Denaye Barahona: You buy secondhand more or you send stuff off to other families?

Stephanie Seferian: Both. Absolutely. 100%.

Denaye Barahona: Got it. So yeah, and the clothing piece is always, I feel like part of figuring out how to be able to buy wardrobes for our kids where it's not overly expensive, but at the same time it's going to last. And I know with my kids, I don't buy a lot of stuff for them and I wash every day. So sometimes they have tee shirts and pants that are getting washed three or four times of the week and they need to hold up. So buying higher quality is better, but it doesn't have to be more expensive because if you're buying fewer things that cost more than, you're not necessarily spending more money, you're just buying fewer things that are of higher quality and doing laundry more often.

Stephanie Seferian: Exactly. I don't even like the term capsule for kids, but just less is more, right. Less quality clothing that works with your laundry cycle. So, you never opened the door and there's nothing there but less clothing. less quality clothing can last a really long time.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And most of my kids' clothing that is 100% cotton, higher quality cottons, it doesn't wrinkle as much and it doesn't stain as much. Have you seen that too?

Stephanie Seferian: So it definitely doesn't wrinkle as much, especially if you shake it before you hang it. I have not noticed the staining phenomenon simply because my kids are just so, so I don't want to say messy but so careless in their eating and playing.

Denaye Barahona: See, I don't know. I've had good luck with staining. I think that, and maybe it's because I wash more often too. I wash every day. So I do one medium size load every day of all of our stuff. So most of it goes right into the washing machine. Maybe that's why I've had a little bit more luck with the staining. but I do think that the higher quality materials overall are going to be more forgiving. especially when dealing with kids because we think that kids need disposable clothes cause they grow so fast. But the truth is often they need even more durable clothes cause they tend to be harder on their clothes than we are.

Stephanie Seferian: Yeah, I agree with that. and that's, I think again, we're secondhand buying and then passing on is really important because if you do invest in the, the, the high quality stuff, it's gonna last not only for your kid but two or three or four kids after. Right. It's, it's made to last. And so it should be given.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. So you had mentioned borrowing from a friend and I think that borrowing is kind of a lost art. No one really does it anymore and I would love to see people doing it more often. Do you borrow very often or do you have friends that borrow from you?

Stephanie Seferian: So I am super lucky and fortunate to have, like a mom group in my community and we borrow everything from each other all the time. So I can give you so many examples. We host toy swaps, which is when we all get together, we have a grand old time. The kids have a play date. And the parents get together and we all bring toys that our kids are no longer playing with or would be okay with not having around the house for a couple of weeks. And we, you know, just place them in the center of the room and the kids take home new to them toys with the understanding that they will be given back in a couple of weeks. And so that is just in my view and in my experience which has been an amazing way for my kids to get new to them toys without me having to waste money or environmental resources buying new toys. So that's been like super helpful.

Denaye Barahona: Oh yeah. I was just going to say, and it also teaches kids to take good care of things because when we borrow things, we're going to be really careful with other people's things. Maybe more careful than we are with our own.

Stephanie Seferian: Yes. absolutely my, my daughters can feel that tug of not wanting to let their friend borrow this. I mean the sharing is a really hard skill for young kids and if we teach them through experiences such as this, that if we take care of other people's stuff, other people will take care of our stuff. I think that's a really good life lesson. That's one way.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, and I think even as adults we have hesitations about borrowing and I actually, I asked some of my audience about this a year or so ago about what the barriers are to borrowing and most people told me that the main barrier was the idea that they have to return it and the trouble that returning it brings a sort of the extra effort. It's much easier just to one, click order something on Amazon and have it at your house and not have to worry about returning it. Then to go about finding someone to borrow it from and then having the responsibility of taking care of that thing and then returning it to the person.

Stephanie Seferian: Yeah, I hear that. My response to that though would be that if you order one click something on Amazon and it's at your doorstep in two days, you then have a lifetime of organizing it, cleaning it, maintaining it, putting it away. So I feel like it's, it's almost kind of a trade off is, is what would you rather do? Borrow something and give it back or keep it and be responsible for it.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I don't think many of us think about the maintenance of stuff and the effort that stuff takes to maintain and to move around and to clean up and to store. But it does, it, it can take a lot out of us collectively, especially if we have a lot of it. Agreed. Yeah. So I think that that's a good reminder. The next time we try to one click order something on Amazon, we can ask ourselves, where am I going to put this? Could I just borrow it from someone then not have to deal with this thing ever again. and I wonder if that might be a little bit more encouraging for people to get out there and start borrowing more often.

Stephanie Seferian: I have a good real life example of that, I signed my six year old up for tee ball. And I fully expected her to love tee ball, but I didn't want to buy her a glove because what if she didn't love it? Right? Like who wants to keep a little pink glove around if she's not going to play the sport? So I had every intention of borrowing from a friend that I just never got to it. It, it just, you know, flew through my mind. And then the first practice was there and I had no gloves. So what did I have to do? I had to overnight ship from Amazon and wouldn't, you know, my daughter hates tee ball. So that pink glove that we ordered overnight is just like sitting in our garage. And every time I look at that, I just think to myself like I could have done better.

Denaye Barahona: Yes. Yeah. Well and I think that we all of course get into those situations. And it's just, it serves as a reminder that we'll do better next time. And I know I felt like that when I did a big purge when I first started decluttering, that there were a lot of things that I let go of, not in the most intentional sustainable of ways, but at the same time seeing that sort of mass Exodus of stuff, it served as a really good reminder for me, this idea that, wow, look how wasteful I was. Look at all those bad decisions for lack of better words that I made. How can I start doing better from here on out? And I think that making those decisions helps us too, and helps to inspire us to do better going forward.

Stephanie Seferian: I totally agree with that. There's nothing like sitting over a pile of stuff that you didn't need. You wasted harder and money on and didn't use, and now you're responsible for getting rid of, there's nothing like that experience to really inform better behavior in the future.

Denaye Barahona: Yes. Yeah. Buying more intentionally. And that was something when I first started my journey to minimalism, I didn't understand. I was getting rid of all this stuff. I was decluttering like crazy. I was doing great, but I didn't necessarily for some reason make that connection that if I was getting rid of stuff and so bringing stuff in at the same rate, then I really wasn't getting anywhere. Did you have that experience at all?

Stephanie Seferian: It did take me a while because eventually I realized that if you're, if you're decluttering and buying and then purging, cluttering buying, you're really just on the hamster wheel of consumption and at some point you do have to get off.

Denaye Barahona: Absolutely. Yeah. And for us, I think that we slowly were getting off and buying more intentionally, but I think the best way was when we finally set up a budget where we were going to, what we started to budget, where we were spending our money. And that helped me to be more intentional about what I was spending my money on when I was, how I was spending it. Yeah.

Stephanie Seferian: In my family, we really try to, my husband and I try so hard to prioritize experiences and time vacation as a family, but the vacations are expensive, right. And, finances are not infinite. So the way that we fund those experiences is by buying less during the year and having a budget, having it in black and white and talking about talking about money, which honestly is not fun ever. but having those monthly talks about money keeps us, keeps us on track. I think, even though it's still hard.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, I completely agree with that. So this has been great. I've loved hearing these tips and tools from you, Stephanie, and I think that this will definitely help us to think a little bit more intentionally. The surf day, even though most of us are going to be inside still in quarantine throughout this day, I think that we've all been inspired to get outside and to value the earth a little bit more. I know that our local parks have had a mad rush of people going for hikes. so I don't know. Have you, have you seen that locally with you?

Stephanie Seferian: Yeah. So I have a dog and the literal only place I can go to have time to myself is on a hike in the woods. But the hiking is like overrun now. People who want to get out. So I don't even know if going for a hike is social isolation anymore.

Denaye Barahona: I do have this hope that that is one piece of the quarantine that is going to stick around in the sense that people are getting a little bit more in touch with nature and maybe they'll be inspired to stick with that after we all are eventually back out in society again. so that is my one hope that we're all one of the perks that may come away from all this.

Stephanie Seferian: I hope so too.

Denaye Barahona: Well thank you so much Stephanie. It's been great. Thank you. I appreciate your time.

Denaye Barahona: I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Stephanie. It was so great chatting with another parent who approaches sustainability from a very realistic point of view. I appreciate her perspective. And be sure to check her out on the Sustainable Minimalist podcast and I'll put the links in the show notes to get in touch with her. If you go to simplefamilies.com/episode215 all right, we're getting ready to move into the second segment, which is the question for today and it's coming from Kara in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Before we dive into that, here is a 60-second word from the sponsor for this segment. The sponsor is Cultural Care. Cultural Care is the au pair agency that I use. My family and I have been relying on Cultural Care for the past two years to provide high quality childcare for our family. I get a lot of questions on how does it work?

Denaye Barahona: Cultural care is an au pair agency, which means that they connect us with au pairs throughout the world. An au pair is a caring, adventurous young person between the ages of 18 and 26 they're eager to travel to the U S to share in our culture and to live with an American family. So not only do we provide them with the experience of living with an American family, but we also provide them with a weekly stipend along with $500 to go towards college credits. In exchange, they provide up to 45 hours a week of childcare. If you want to learn more about the program, you can go to simplefamilies.com/aupair, or feel free to reach out to me directly and I'll give you more information. Again, go to simplefamilies.com/aupair, you can use the code pcsimple to waive the registration fee.

Denaye Barahona: All right, Kara in Mechanicsburg sent me this message. She said, I have a question that's been brewing in my head for a while. I have a son who is very cautious by nature and doesn't like doing anything that's too risky. I'm trying to figure out how to encourage him to take more risks. He's six years old. Thanks. Thanks for your question, Kara. This is also something that I have struggled with myself. I have a kid who likes to take a lot of risks and I also have a kid who is risk averse. I will tell you first and foremost that the grass is always greener. Your kid that takes a lot of risks. You always wish they took less and your kid that doesn't really take many risks. You always wish they took more. It rarely seems that there's a kid that fits right into that middle ground.

Denaye Barahona: My first child was my more cautious one and I do think that that tends to be the trend and while not exclusively the first child does tend to be more cautious. It could have something to do with the fact that first time parents are a bit more cautious but like most things, I don't think there is a clear nature versus nurture distinction. I don't think that cautious kids are necessarily raised by cautious parents. I do think that's a factor that plays in. I don't think we can rule out the importance of one or the other. I'd first encourage you to look at your motivation for trying to get your kid to take more risks. And I say that because in the early years of parenting when I had a really cautious kid, I found that I was comparing my child to a lot of other children his age and if other kids were going down the slide and he was afraid to go down the slide, I got a little worried.

Denaye Barahona: If other kids were climbing to the top of this really big pile of rocks and he didn't want to do it, I felt a little concerned. I will definitely say that comparison was a huge driver in me trying to get my kid to take more risks. And I think that's not a great reason to push your kid. In general, we notice when boys are risk adverse more so than girls. We expect boys to be adventurous and to be a rough and tumble, and that's just not always the case. As much as we probably don't like to acknowledge it or to admit it. We do have inner gender stereotypes and I think there's a little bit of a fear that we might be raising a boy that is quote unquote wimpy or not tough, but the same could be set up girls, because I think in this generation we're putting a lot of pressure on our girls to be brave and to be strong.

Denaye Barahona: So I think we need to give some consideration to the gender stereotypes that lie within us and the expectations that we have of our kids. And we might ask ourselves, why is it that we value this brave, risky, adventurous spirit so much? If it's not the nature of our kid, but I will say I've been there, I've put the pressure on and it generally doesn't work. I actually think that if you pressure a risk averse kid to take more risks, it often backfires. Not only does it usually push them away and make them less likely to try something new, but it also might lead them to ignore their instincts because being cautious runs a little bit deeper than what you're just seeing on the surface. Your child is not simply just making a choice, not to try something new. They're not making a choice to stay in their comfort zone.

Denaye Barahona: There's something deeper within their body and their personality structure that's telling them, no, don't do this. Don't try this. We can look to something like food neophobia, which is the fear of trying new foods. Researchers have heavily related this to evolution and the way that children have evolved as they've grown thousands of years ago. The way that kids stayed safe when they roamed out in the wild was that they didn't try new foods that they weren't sure of. They ate what they knew, what was familiar to them and what was safe, and that's because parents weren't always around to make those decisions for them. But now we know that's not a risk anymore for our kids, but we see those tendencies still hanging around food. Neophobia or the fear of trying new foods may exist because thousands and thousands of years ago it was a protective mechanism for our kids, so if your kids refusing to try new foods, it might not just be them being a pain in the butt.

Denaye Barahona: There might be something deeper to this. This resistance might be part of a protective mechanism that's been around as long as time. Not only are there quite possibly evolutionary tendencies that have led to our fears, but there also could be tendencies within our body types. I was a very, very fearful kid. If you asked me my top three fears as a kid, I would tell you motorcycles. People dress up in character costumes and climbing high on the jungle gym or some really big slide. There seems to be no rational connection between those three things, but interestingly, my cautious kid has those exact same fears and something else that he has in common with me is my body type. He and I are both hyper mobile, which means we have extra joint flexibility. There's about 10% of the population who has hypermobility. That means we're really good at yoga.

Denaye Barahona: Sometimes this is called double jointedness, so what does this mean? It doesn't impact our ability to function, but there is theory that says that people who are hyper mobile and who have looser joints don't feel quite as stable in the world. So approaching something like a playground doesn't feel so steady. If you and I both get on the same balance beam, your body's going to have a lot more control than mine. The same experience for me might result in more anxiety because of the way I literally feel inside my bones and I've been watching this as my son has been growing and I will interestingly see him test the structural integrity of climbing structures. One thing in particular is those bridges that shake when you walk on playgrounds like you run across them and they'd bounce up and down. He always leans forward and touches them and shakes them as with his hand and checks them first before he grows across them.

Denaye Barahona: I find him reaching out and touching and checking things before he climbs on them to make sure that they're safe, to make sure that they're sound. Now my risk taker child would never bother to do that. She just goes, she jumps right in head first. So I do really believe that the way my son's body experiences the world is different than the way my daughter's body experiences the world. His body tells him to pause because it doesn't feel quite as safe and secure. And there's actually research that says that people with hypermobility are 16 times more likely to have anxiety and panic disorders, which is fascinating. This idea that the way we feel in our bodies has a profound impact on our emotions and our levels of safety and security. So I feel like I'm babbling. Where am I going with all this is we have no idea what's going on inside of the bodies of our children when they're experiencing these scary things.

Denaye Barahona: Just because something seems really innocuous and not scary at all to us, doesn't mean that our kid doesn't have a fear that is very much real to them in their body. So you might climb up on a big rock and say, Oh Hey, it's not that high. And your kid said, yeah, that's really high. It's all perspective. You have to give respect to the fact that your kids are going to have different perceptions of risk and fear than you are or then their sibling is. I think when we're talking about encouraging our kids to take risks, there are two, well at least two different types of risks we could be talking about. We could be talking about the risk of trying new things, maybe going off on a play date by themselves without you for the first time versus a physical risk jumping across a big ditch.

Denaye Barahona: I really don't recommend you push them to jump across the ditch because if they are ready and willing and capable of jumping across the ditch, they'll jump across the ditch when they're darn ready to jump across the ditch. If they don't want to go up to the highest slide and go down, don't make them, don't pressure them. And maybe I say this because it triggers me as a child and knowing how fearful I was of these things and how uncomfortable it would make me if someone really pushed me to do that stuff in particular because who the heck cares if your kid goes down the highest slide, who the heck cares if they jump across the ditch? So when it comes to taking risks that physically or putting them out of their comfort zone, I will strongly encourage you to let them take the lead and follow their own instincts on this because more often than not, their bodies know best when it comes to trying new things.

Denaye Barahona: I think this is a bit of a different ballgame. A couple of weeks ago I talked about my reward chart and how I did a reward chart to get my son to jump into the water and put his head under for the first time and it worked miraculously and now he's an avid swimmer and he loves putting his head under. I am not opposed to encouraging kids to try new things, but in the end it was his choice. I motivated him to try something new, but I still gave him the choice. He was allowed to say no, and this seems like a really fuzzy line and it is.

Denaye Barahona: That's why I think you have to trust your instincts. I think maternal and paternal instincts are so strong. If your motivations are in the right place, you need to get your kids swimming for safety reasons. That's one you need to get your kids going on play dates without you because you desperately need downtime away from them. That's too, those are the right kind of motivations to be encouraging our kids to take new risks and try new things. But if you just want them to go down the zip line because all their friends are doing it or you're worried they're going to get made fun of because all their friends are riding bikes with two wheels and they're not. Personally, I don't think those are good enough motivations. If you find yourself trying to get your kid to take risks to protect their social status. So they don't get made fun of so they don't get bullied.

Denaye Barahona: I would check myself on that one because that my friends is a very, very slippery slope. Our kids need to largely be in charge of their own social status and social relationships. When we get in there and try to micromanage that, it can get really messy. Not to mention the fact that we need to and accept the kids we have right in front of us. Risk-takers are risk averse. They are perfect just the way they are and for them to believe that themselves, we need to believe that about them. If we're constantly pushing them to do more and be more, we might be sending the messages that they're not enough the way they are. So always check your motivations and make sure your motivations are in the best of places. When you're encouraging your kids to take risks, ask yourself, does it impact his ability to function or does it just stress you out when you're comparing him to his peers and look for competence in other areas? Maybe jumping off huge rock formations just isn't his thing. Perhaps he experiences the world more intensely like I do and like my son does, but maybe your kid has confidence in other areas and I know that's the case of my son. Thanks so much for tuning in. This has been episode 215. If you have questions or comments, you can leave those in the show notes simplefamilies.com/episode215 if you have a question for the show, you can go to simplefamilies.com/question. I appreciate you tuning in and have a good one.

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Denaye Barahona

Dr. Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She partners with families to tackle the challenges of raising children. Denaye is a minimalist who claims to be a decluttering expert (don't let her near your closet). She loves to travel, talk health-and-wellness, and give unsolicited advice. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Minimalists, Motherly, Becoming Minimalist, and numerous other media outlets. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Clinical Social Worker with a specialty in child and family practice.