With the COP26 happening this month, the climate emergency is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. The truth is that climate change is no longer a problem for the future – it is the reality of today. This means that, as uncomfortable as it is to admit, it is also the reality of our children.
This is one of those topics that, as a parent or carer, can be extremely difficult to discuss. How can you explain the climate emergency without sparking eco-anxiety? What can you do to empower your child to become an agent of positive change? Most importantly, how can you transmit hope for a better world? Here are some tips and tricks:
- Do your research
Read up on the science from reputable sources. The better you understand environmental issues, the easier it will be to simplify and summarise in a child-friendly way. Knowledge will enable you to make more eco-conscious decisions and be ready for any questions your child might have.
2. Start small
The reality of climate change can be very overwhelming for children. The goal is to help them understand the process so they can be part of the solution, not to bombard them with crushing statistics about their future. First, cover the basics: talk about the processes in the natural world, the relationship between living things and their immediate environment, and how humans need natural resources for daily life. Once your child has a grasp of where their water, food and air come from, you can talk about the global scale. What happens when everyone overuses all the natural resources?
3. Validate their feelings
Climate anxiety is very real, particularly in the younger generations, who are significantly more affected by it. Encourage them to talk about their worries and fears. Take time to listen to them and acknowledge their emotional journey. Reassure them that stopping the climate emergency does not depend on them alone, but that many people all over the world are coming together to make a change – they are part of a shared, global effort!
4. Take action
This is where empowerment happens. Start by making small but intentional changes together, like walking to school or taking public transport. Teach them to switch off the lights, recycle and compost and explain the reasoning behind all these actions. Organize street clean-ups with their friends or start an eco-club, so they can have a good time while becoming part of the change. Remind them of Greta Thunberg’s words: “you are never too small to make a difference”.
5. Give them the good news
Success stories about the climate emergency don’t happen often, but they do, so make sure you keep your child updated! Did a region recover from a wildfire? Did an animal species bounce back from near extinction? What did your neighbourhood, county or country do last month to protect the environment? Telling these stories gives children hope for a greener, better future.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive, but we hope it helps provide a framework to parent children in the age of climate change. If you have any other strategies or suggestions, make sure to pop them in the comments!
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Parent Club. (2021). Staying at home with children during coronavirus. Retrieved from Parent Club Scotland: https://www.parentclub.scot/articles/staying-at-home-with-children
Twinkl Parents. (2021). How Can I Help My Child with Their Online Learning at Home? Retrieved from Twinkl: https://www.twinkl.co.uk/blog/how-can-i-help-my-child-with-their-online-learning-at-home
Twinkl Parents. (2021, February 5). Top Tips for a Happier Lockdown. Retrieved from Twinkl: https://www.twinkl.co.uk/blog/top-10-tips-for-a-happier-lockdown