Parents will always have the urge to protect their children from harsh truths. One of these is climate change. Unfortunately, however, choosing to sweep the matter under the rug doesn’t solve the problem or even make it disappear. You need to somehow start talking to your kids about climate change.
If your children don’t hear about it from you, they’ll hear it elsewhere. They also have a right to know about it, seeing as they will bear the brunt of the consequences.
Talking about climate change with your kids, in a manner that is open and honest, can help prepare them to deal with it better, and to remain resilient though the process.
What’s more, there is no better source for children to learn this from than their most trusted source of information: their parents. With that in mind, here are 6 useful tips to help you talk to your children about climate change.
Take your child’s age into consideration
Some experts recommend against getting into the technical specifics with very young children, since they haven’t achieved the developmental stage to process them just yet.
Instead, when you talk to kids about climate change, you should start simply, connecting your children in relatable ways to nature.
Others recommend that you dive right into the meat and potatoes of it with them as early as possible. They argue that this helps them to engage better with the subject from an emotional perspective.
The truth is that there is no simple way to do it.
You will have to look at your own children and determine whether or not they are ready to talk about the subject.
You should also find the appropriate ways to introduce the topic to them.
For example, the carbon cycle is a much too complicated topic for most kids in kindergarten. However, they can pick up on changing rain patterns, noticing when it rains a little more or a little less than it used to.
An adolescent, on the other hand, should have already learned enough in school to discuss the finer points of climate change.
Move from the known to the unknown
If you’ve ever tried to talk to a child about the birds and the bees, then you know it’s likely your child already knows a lot more about the topic than you might think.
What starts as you seeking to teach your child might end up with you getting an in-depth lesson on how climate change is destroying our planet. If you think about it, this is expected, seeing as climate change gets mentioned everywhere, from school, to the media, to conversations with their friends at school.
This can shape much of their worldview on climate change.
That said, no matter how much your child already knows about the subject, you still need to have a purposeful conversation with them. At any rate, even if your child ends up knowing more about climate change than you do, talking to them about it is a signal to them that climate change is an important topic in your family.
Brush up on the facts, alone and together
Nobody expects you to know everything about everything – not even your child.
However, you should do your homework before talk to your kids about climate change to ensure you present them with the facts, rather than hearsay.
Having the information beforehand will also prepare you for the inevitable barrage of questions you will get from the child. Documentaries on the topic should help.
After you have done your own homework, be sure to also learn a little with your child.
Luckily, there are numerous kid-friendly resources on the internet to learn about climate change. By taking the time to learn together, not only will you both be enlightened on the subject, but the bond between you and your child will grow stronger.
Consider the feelings as well as the facts
Talking about how greenhouse gas emissions affect the weather should be a great place to start.
Most parents, however, aren’t as concerned about teaching the science to their kids as they are to help their children cope with the impact of climate change as they get older.
In fact, if you can, encourage your child to talk about the different feelings they have on the matter. These feelings can be very complex and confusing for your child, so part of the conversation should be about helping them sort through them.
For example, ask them what their favorite animal is and how climate change might affect it. This can help you explore their point of view on the subject.
Offer hope and actionable ways to work through the challenges
There are many proposed solutions to the risks of climate change.
You can talk about some of the ways you are doing your part to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as taking part in adaptation efforts or reducing your contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
In the home, you can discuss some of the ways you can act as a family, such as recycling or reducing food waste.
The bottom line: Be realistic about the challenges and avoid painting an overly rosy picture. Your child will be able to cope with the disappointments of climate change as they mature, but you don’t have to sugarcoat it for now.
Don’t let the first conversation be the last conversation
The first talk is likely to be the hardest, but don’t let it be the last. Instead, let it pave the way for an ongoing dialogue on the issue with your child, which helps them better prepare for the future.
It’s impossible to predict exactly how climate change will affect your child’s future. However, when you talk to kids about climate change, and have open and honest conversations about it, you equip them with the knowledge and resilience to deal effectively with the future