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Talking To Kids About CLimate Change
It is becoming more common for kids of all ages to have concerns about this issue and many can feel unsure, helpless or overwhelmed about such a gigantic world issue.
Nature Days Top Tips for Talking to Children About Climate Change.
1. Face facts and acknowledge our own fears
Climate change is a daunting thought for everyone and so children will feel this way too. Acknowledge this fact, and that it is reasonable to be fearful or unsure about the future when we think about something as huge as global Climate Change.
If you feel unsure or underprepared to discuss Climate Change with your children, do a little prep beforehand by reading some of the information contained here. You don't need to be an expert however. You and your family can learn about Climate Change together in a more child friendly way here. This level of information is perfectly fine too.
When we understand what's going on, we can then focus on ways to help our children to understand it too. We can help them to become more resilient when faced with challenges and find ways to manage their emotions in a healthy and empowering way.
Listen to how they are feeling, and share your own feelings with them, but try to remember children do not have the maturity level we do as adults. Our children look to us for reassurance so try not to overburden them with your own worries. After acknowledging that Yes, this is a scary topic, try to leave them feeling more positive in some way. Show them how your family can make a positive difference for the planet. Explain that once everyone does their small share, it has an enormous cumulative effect around the world, so their small share is enough. We deal this more below.
2. Consider your child's age and maturity when talking to them
For very young children, pre schoolers and younger children in their first half of primary school, keep it short & simple. Focus on connecting them with Nature and how to show love and respect for Nature. Be hopeful and positive about ways they can help Nature, be that minding a plant, planting a tree, simple gardening tasks together, simple recycling tasks, caring for insects and wildlife. Most important of all, encourage children of all ages to have fun playing outdoors as much as they can.
For older kids, those in later years of primary school, pre teens and teenagers, remember they may know quite a bit about Climate Change already. Pick the right time to talk to them, especially teens, so maybe in the car or on a walk together and see how the conversation flows. Ask their opinions and how they feel about Climate Change. Read their reaction and emotional response before tailoring your chat to what they need in that moment.
You can then discuss with them about how you as a family can take actions to help our planet. Again, be realistic but give a hopeful message that leaves them feeling more positive. Let your children know you are there to support them in whatever way they want to take some climate action in their life, as an individual, in your family or in their community. Taking positive action helps reduce climate worries and anxiety.
3. Take it in bite sized chunks
Climate change is a gigantic, multi-layered and complex, issue. Don't try to take it all on in one go. Pick some simple family actions you can try together and start from there.
Find your information from trust worthy sources and teach your older kids with phones to do the same.
Teach your children to recognise when they need to step back a while. For me, the most important message for children of any age is that we can all do a little, but we can't take it all on. When they are feeling stressed, especially teens and older kids, help them to step back and gives themselves a rest. Kids need time to be kids, playing and hanging out, without worries burdening them down all the time.
John Sharry, professor of Psychology with UCD, advises that children deserve a happy childhood, free from fears and worries where at all possible. He recommends parents try to find a balance between preparing for the future and providing children with a happy childhood.
And Nature itself is a powerful antidote to stress, fatigue and negative emotions. Help them to realise Nature can be their happy place when they need to recharge and to use it to find their balance again.
4. Put children into a position of DOING
Fear and worry love avoidance! So addressing these scary emotions by acknowledging them is important, but then move on to highlight positive actions your family can take which put your children back into a position of DOING. This is a healthy life skill for us all.
Building resilience in our children is right up their as one of the main legacies a parent or guardian can give their child. How they cope and adapt to adversity is something they must learn from the adults in their lives. When they face the world alone, they will draw on these learned, childhood, healthy habits over and over again. This is what will shape their future.
So, what is a position of DOING?
It means finding the things they CAN do rather than focusing on the things they can't (like banning fossil fuels etc).
Connect children with Nature - Simply connecting your family to Nature is a great start and is what Nature Days is all about. Kids are naturally curious and drawn to the outdoors. They can loose this connection if they don't spend enough time outdoors. But they regain that connection very quickly again once we rekindle that love for the outdoors in them. Use the Nature Days Activity Finder to get them enjoying Nature and the outdoors and you'll be on the right track.
Become a Greener Family - Find the simple Climate Actions you can as take a family here. It will benefit your children greatly to know they are doing things to help their planet. They change from a being in a position of helpless worry, to being in a position of DOING. Remember they only need to do their own small share and leave others to do theirs. So don't take on too much - start with some small actions and build from there over time.
Show children they have a voice and it matters - Children can become involved in small and manageable climate action in their family, in their school, or in the local community. Helps kids connect with local initiatives, or national initiatives like Fridays for Future, if that interests them. If interested, help them write to governments officials to pass on their concerns or use their own voice to try to discuss this topic with family, friends and relatives. Follow their lead. They can take actions they can manage and which help them feel empowered and more in control about Climate Change.
5. How to leave them feeling more positive or empowered after your chat?
Consider using the Rule of 3 when talking about this daunting topic - For every negative fact you discuss, focus on 3 positive actions you can take in your own family to counterbalance it.
Make the "#HOPE Top Ten" list - At the end of your chat write down 10 ways you can take positive action to help our planet and have this as your family goal.
Tap into some positive Inspiration here
We hope you find something to help you chat to your children about Climate Change. You can find a longer, more detailed, version of these tips in the Teenagers & Young People area here.
How to talk to your kids about Climate Change? RTE Brainstorm YouTube video
Talking to Children and Teenagers About the Climate Emergency - John Sharry, Professor of Psychology with UCD
How to talk to your children about Climate Changes Irish Examiner Article
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