We all want our children to feel safe. We also want to feel that we can keep them safe, but keeping them safe doesn’t mean hiding the reality of global warming, news about extreme weather events, or our own concerns.
In fact, helping our children to feel safe will require being honest with them, as challenging as that may be. We don’t want to cause anxiety where there is none, but we need to acknowledge feelings they may have. This will be very different for children at different stages of development. But at every stage we can balance worries with age-appropriate information, hope, and action.
How can we equip our children for a changing world?
We can start by offering children experiences that help them feel connected to their environment so they can learn to care for their world. Getting kids outside into nature—in whatever way we can—helps them:
- appreciate the diversity and delicate balance of the natural world.
- feel that they are part of it.
- see that what we do has an impact.
- understand their responsibility and that we all can really help.
Here are six tips for talking with children about climate change:
Keep information age appropriate.
- Younger children most need experiences that foster their relationship with the natural world—gardening, hiking, or reading books about forests, oceans, and animals. If you need to talk about climate change, focus on reassuring them that adults are working hard to solve the problem.
- Middle-aged children are ready for more complex information and abstract thinking. Whatever materials you offer, make time to look at them together and talk about what you learn.
- For older children, knowledge can be power. You can help them find good videos to watch and discuss together as well as articles and books to share. You can also give them examples of what people their age are doing about the climate and support their interest in taking action.
Follow their lead.
Find out what your children have learned in school or heard through the media. Ask questions to see what they know or what they want to know. Then follow up with simple, direct responses or invite them to learn more with you.
- interested in the science?
- worried what will happen?
- eager to get involved and start making a difference?
Your main role is as a parent, not a climate expert. Be open about what you don’t know. If your children have questions, you can find answers together. As they encounter media coverage of climate issues, one of the most important things you can do is to help them separate fact from fiction and science from belief.
Encourage stewardship and conservation.
Make sustainable choices with your family, sharing information about the energy (and money) you save as well as the impact your actions have on your community and the planet.
Your actions can inspire your children to make their own choices that are good for the environment.
Share with your children that there are solutions and that it's not too late to act. There are many things we can do.
Give them examples of successes and solutions in your community and your state. Show them ways that people around the world are organizing, mobilizing, and making changes.
At any age, action is power. Joining others who are speaking up and taking action gives us all hope and empowers us to do more!
When you take action, you show your children how to get involved and how important it is to do something. When they get involved themselves, they can feel that they are part of the solution.
For further reading check out these sites:
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Association of School Counselors
- The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media
- Child Mind Institute
- Mental Health America
- Eco Child’s Play
- Grist.org - How to explain climate change to teens
- TheGuardian.com - "If children lose contact with nature they won't fight for it" by George Monbiot