By Miko Takama
Discussing the climate change with your children can be challenging. It is an issue so huge that even adults are not able to comprehend its scope.
But climate change is a global concern, and with news and articles appearing daily, your kids might ask you about climate change one day.
Of course, children today will face the challenges of global warming and they have the right to understand the realities and what it means. But climate change can be an incredibly complex issue.
How can we talk about it without overwhelming or scaring them?
Before you start talking about climate change with your children, you have to know what you are talking about. Kids are curious, so you have to be as prepared as possible.
But you don’t have to attain an advanced science degree to understand climate change. There are numbers of organisations such as Climate Reality Project or National Geographic providing reports and articles that are easy-to-read and help you understand the fundamentals.
There are also some great documentaries you can watch as well. You can use them to reacquaint yourself with some facts and to brainstorm points of entry for your discussions.
You will do well if you take your children’s age and personality into consideration before deciding how deeply and in what manner you begin. Each child is different and have different learning styles.
Some kids might be empowered by seeing other children taking actions. Some children are visual learners and prefer to learn at local museums.
You can encourage his/her interest and make the conversation unfold even more organically, moving from curiosity to the natural world to climate change.
For Children under 10
For kids under 10, it might be better not to jump into the discussion of climate change issues unless you have to. One of the stigmas that accompanies climate change is that it is a burden that will be held to the next generation, but this burden is far too heavy for young children to wrap their minds around.
Strive to strengthen his/her relationship with nature so that when the time comes, he/she will have already developed a passion and appreciation for nature.
It is important to note that kids under 7 struggles to see any situation from a point of view other than their own, so focus on the natural world right outside their house and take a playful approach.
It could be camping, gardening, or just stopping to notice natural beauty on the way to school, they are all great ways to enhance the relationship.
Kids love stories. There are many children’s books on sustainability that help teach children about caring for nature. Reading books about forests, oceans, and animals are also great ways to foster a relationship between your children and the natural world.
If your kids do ask you about global warming, acknowledge their interest and find out what they already know first. By asking them “what have you heard?” it would allow them to explain what they understand as well as any worries that may have prompted the question.
Respond with a very simple answer and emphasis that adults are working very hard to make the Earth healthier.
For Children above 10
By the time children reach the fourth or fifth grade, parents can have a bit more complex discussions about the causes and effects of climate change using simplified language.
Kids in age 8 to 14 develop the ability to think abstractly about complex topics. By the age of 10, kids can understand why climate change threatens habitats, and how human activities are contributing to global warming. But you avoid emphasising fear or helplessness when they talk about climate change.
Parents can help children focus on making a positive impact, no matter how small. Try to be “solution-oriented” and empower them to take steps toward advocacy.
Offer practical suggestions for children, including planting their own vegetables or turning off their lights when not needed. Parents can also share inspiring stories of youth activists such as Greta Thunberg who’s fighting for climate justice.
When parents focus on solutions and hight success stories, it can fundamentally change the way children think about climate change, and what role children see for themselves in changing the planet’s future.
It will not be a one-time conversation, as they learn, they will be more questions they want to ask. Sometimes conversations about the changing climate ignite anger or sadness.
It is important to stay positive and honest. Remind them that with the climate crisis, comes an infinite number of possibilities and opportunities.
Encourage your children to “lead with their passion” and help them connect these passions to climate solutions.