If kids feel connected to nature, then they will feel more empowered and positive about how they can support and protect their environment.
Climate change is the gravest existential threat that faces humanity today, so it’s normal for younger generations to have questions about it. Even though it’s important that kids have a realistic view of climate change and its impact, being in constant fear for the future of our planet is detrimental to mental and physical health.
If you have young ones in your life, you may be wondering how to address their concerns in a way that will help them manage feelings of eco-anxiety should they come up. Here are some tips from Caroline Hickman, an executive for the Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA), and other experts on how to handle this dilemma.
Don’t shy away from discussing climate change with your kids. Instead of following the natural urge to protect children from frightening news, find tools and resources that have been specifically developed to teach climate change to kids.
Consider checking out National Geographic Kids, an online resource that offers games, videos, and kid-focused articles that can set the stage for age-appropriate discussion about climate change between you and your kids.
Keep the facts about climate change for kids simple. Climate change is a complex issue that comes with many explanations and solutions, but that doesn’t mean we have to unload all the heavy, fear-inducing commentary that adults often see, onto our kids.
Rather than dumping all the information you have on climate change in one sitting, keep it short and sweet when it comes to speaking to the young ones in your life and put information into context as much as possible.
If you are short on ideas for how to share facts about climate change with your kids, check out The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution: 100 Ways to Build a Fossil-Free Future, Raise Empowered Kids, and Still Get a Good Night’s Sleep.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings about climate change. If your child is expressing their worries about climate change, your first reaction may be to reassure them by minimizing their feelings.
Senior psychologist at the Australian Psychological Society Susie Burke says that this is not the best route to take and that as parents it’s your job to listen—really listen—to how children are feeling about climate change. Having insight into those feelings and thoughts and being able to express them to a listening ear helps children manage their feelings.
Take Action. Getting your child involved in tangible action against climate change can help them tackle their fears and feel less helpless.
Psychologist Tamar Chansky says that there are a variety of ways kids can practice their activism. “Focus on small actions that your family can take and help your child see them connected to the big picture,” she suggests. For instance, you can walk or bike to a friend’s house instead of climbing into the family car, and while you’re on the way you can talk about the positive impact that small decisions like this can have on the environment.
Get outside. If kids feel connected to nature, then they will feel more empowered and positive about how they can support and protect their environment. To foster this connection, encourage your kids to spend time outside in an intentional way such as growing their own plants, studying the local flora and fauna around them, or even just playing outside.