How to talk to kids about climate change
There’s no more avoiding it: we’re in a climate crisis of existential proportions. It’s there every day on the news for us to see. Wildfires, droughts, super-storms, melting ice-caps, shifting jet-streams, mega-cyclones… and that’s just on a Monday.
It’s highly likely that your children, even if you’ve tried to shield them from it, are aware of what’s going on. The topic has probably been raised in school, or they’ve caught a glimpse of the news over your shoulder. Perhaps an older sibling is planning to join the worldwide school strikes for climate.
The first question you need to ask yourself is:
“Do my kids, especially the younger ones, understand climate change fully?”
Because if they don’t, it’s also highly likely that the glimpse they’ve seen is fuelling the kind of nightmares that were once reserved for monsters under the bed.
The second question is:
“How can I explain the reality of what’s going on without terrifying them?”
First, a word about ‘how young is too young?’ Both as a parent, and as a speaker at primary schools on the topic of climate breakdown, I have observed that when speaking to kids in the first half of their primary education, one must tread very carefully and always keep the information age-appropriate. (For an in-depth and excellent look at this, see Jo McAndrews great summary for Extinction Rebellion Families.)
When I speak in primary schools (to children aged 6+), there’s a strategy I use, based solidly on the psychology of climate communication, that educates kids in under an hour, leaving them armed with knowledge and feeling empowered to head out into the world as little climate communicators and protectors of nature. Feel free to use it, in your home, your classroom, at the dinner table, or in the halls of power.
1. TEST THE WATERS
Start by asking questions. Have they heard about climate change? What have they heard? What have they seen? How does it make them feel?