How to Talk to Kids About Climate Change

Arrival when it comes to climate change in our children, research shows that there is a huge gap between what parents think should happen — and what is actually happening. A poll from NPR in 2019 showed that nearly 85 percent of parents, across politics, think children need to learn about climate change. But only about half of the parents said they talked to their own children about it.

The thing is, your child has probably already heard about climate change. Leslie Davenport, a therapist and the author of a workbook to help children process climate change, called All Feeling Under the Sun: How to Deal with Climate Change, said that while researching his book he spoke with many children who know more about climate change than their parents. “I’m really surprised at how much knowledge so many kids know about the science of climate change, even at the age of 8 or 9.” As the climate crisis accelerates and continues to make headlines, it will only continue to permeate children’s consciousness. An article about the COP26 summit was quoted an 8-year-old Glasgow said “I’m worried because if the world gets too hot then all the animals will start dying and (…) people won’t live anymore.”

The problem, according to Davenport, is that the information is not from a reliable source, such as a teacher or a parent. Instead, the children he talked to received partial information — heard something on the radio or in a conversation — that they would try to research on the internet. “As a result, the level of emotional distress is much higher,” Davenport explains, describing everything from anger and frustration to panic, depression, and even headaches, stomach aches, confusion, and movement. . “Even if it’s normal emotional reactions to learning about a world of crisis, they’re not equipped to process feelings.”

Before you talk to your child, it is important to address your own fears and lack of knowledge about the climate crisis. Mary DeMocker, an environmental activist and author of The Parents’ Guide to the Climate Revolution: 100 Ways to Build a Fossil -Free Future, Raise Powerful Kids, and Get a Good Night’s Sleep, points out that climate change is not only a frightening concept for children, it is also frightening for adults, which may be the reason why these important conversations do not take place. “Adults are always closed about the climate issue,” he said. That could lead to dismissing your child’s anxiety or trying to comfort them by lowering the severity and urgency of climate change, or it could lead to your own difficulty stealing the show and scaring your child. Davenport points out that any meaningful discussion of climate change must be balanced with science and emotion. “They cannot be facts and data. If we simply present science, we would reject a large part of what it means to be human — our life beliefs, principles, and attitudes.”

Now, before you text/Whatsapp/Alexa drop in/email/DM your child to go downstairs for a talk, here are some age-appropriate ideas to help you prepare.

Under 6 Years

Children under 6 are too young to directly understand climate change, so Davenport suggests developing a love of nature over seasons, plant cycles, beauty, play, and teaching the basics. responsibility to take care of life. This sets the stage for children to grow into good environmentalists. DeMocker, whose children have grown up, says there was no language about climate change when his children were young, so he tries to lead by example. “We immerse them in nature, we immerse them in stories about nature, we compost, and we take care of a lot of the natural world. That’s why they grew up immersed in the concepts of an ethical environment. care and a life of joy and wonder in the natural world, and our responsibility for it.DeMocker also seeks to bring his children to protests so they are familiar with the concept of political engagement.

The most important thing, DeMocker emphasizes, is commitment. “Whenever they bring up a question, or you feel it’s important because you’re talking [the climate crisis] in your family or in front of them, do something enthusiastic and reassuring, like, ‘Oh, yeah, we have a problem. It’s warming the planet, and that’s causing problems, and we’re in it. ’” DeMocker says young kids need to know they’re going to be okay and have a feeling that when things come up, their parents or guardians take care of it.

Sample Phrases:

  • “The planet is our home, so we need to take care of it to make it a safe home.”
  • “Climate change is a big problem, but there are a lot of people working together to solve it.”
  • “People make pollution go into the air and can act like a blanket, and that blanket is warming the planet and causing problems.”

Ages 7 – 12

At this age, Davenport said kids are already interested and hearing about climate science. “The start of the 8 is when the bigger picture of climate change and its implications starts to be understood, and feelings start to emerge,” he said. So before you start talking, ask what your children already know.

It’s also the time to start naming feelings and practicing emotional resilience. Davenport points out that even though it is normal to feel a lot of emotions when you know the part of the world that is in crisis, children are not equipped to process emotions. “They are left with a feeling of being overweight, which can elevate almost every aspect of life,” he explains. Davenport’s book suggests “toggling,” or learning to alternate between disturbing climate news and tools for self-regulating emotional reactions. “These are the essential life skills needed to successfully navigate a world with clear thinking and empathic action, especially when the challenges are growing due to climate change.”

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