A DIFFERENT KIND OF ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT
You’ve heard of “environmental impact statements”—evaluations completed in the planning stages of large development projects, to determine what approach will best reap hoped-for benefits while generating the least possible harm. As officially defined, “environment” comprises air, water, and living organisms, but also man-made structures and socioeconomic institutions.
Why not try a similar approach when your child/family/class is considering a new project? Whether it’s a child wanting to try out for football, a job offer in another city, or a school thinking about all-virtual teaching, automatically saying, “No way, it’s too risky” can do as much harm as rushing in without a plan. Chances of making the right decision are substantially improved by a pros-and-cons review of likely impacts.
The key aspects of a child’s “environment” are:
- Are there serious risks of injury or illness? (Get the facts rather than letting your imagination run wild.) What safety precautions will be taken?
- Will opportunities for physical activity increase or decrease?
- Will the change affect regular diet or sleep patterns? How?
Family and Social Relationships
- Will your family be spending more or less time together? How could this affect your relationships?
- If the primary change involves one or two people, how will it affect the others? How can you all support the primary player(s)?
- Will there be opportunities to make new friends?
- Are there verifiable risks of bad influence? How can they be avoided?
- Will this mean opportunities to grow in self-confidence?
- What stressors will be involved? How can you cope with them?
- Based on what you know of each individual involved, what will be the hardest changes and demands to deal with? How will you prepare for these?
Overall Life Stability
- What changes will this bring to income and budget? (Note that significant increase in income brings as many challenges as its opposite.)
- If a change in regular surroundings is involved (e. g., an onsite school transitioning to virtual classes), what will be the most challenging aspects of adjustment? How can you include familiar elements of the old?
- Will relocation be necessary? If so, what impacts will it have on everyone involved? Have you researched the new location’s cost of living, public facilities, and overall worldviews?
Opportunities to Learn and Grow
- Will the new environment include healthy challenges to develop critical thinking skills?
- Will the new environment include healthy challenges to develop social skills?
- Will there be access to a variety of learning resources (libraries, media, and the like)?
- Will children be encouraged to consider their own unique abilities and personality traits, and to plan and work towards suitable goals?
Don’t be afraid to turn down a “perfect” opportunity that fails the environmental impact test—or to take an “unnerving” opportunity that gets high marks. Sound thinking (versus emotionally driven impulse) is the key ingredient to an all-around-healthy environment. And that environment is the key ingredient to an all-around-healthy future!