In the wake of last week’s Supreme Court decision to limit the US Government’s ability to combat climate change, families all over the country are having conversations about climate change that they may never have had before.
Many times, if a child doesn’t bring up a topic, parents won’t go out of their way to start the conversation. I'm totally guilty of that. But, just because your child doesn’t bring up climate change, don’t assume that they aren’t thinking about it.
Or worrying about it. Chance are high that they’ve been exposed to the subject, either in school, in the news, or even in their educational reading/listening materials. I know we talk about climate change a lot on the Nature Just Got Real podcast for kids when we talk about how certain species are challenged, and what those challenges are. In fact, we talk about it in most episodes these days.
I can tell you that we try to talk about it in ways that present action steps that give them things they can do at home to help lower emissions and their household carbon footprint, so they feel empowered rather than helpless. I think this is a key component in the climate change discussion, especially for kids.
If you are having this conversation in your family these days, or if you are thinking about having it, here are some top tips from unicef.org.
1. Do your homework.
No one has all the answers and it’s ok if you don’t either. NASA has some great child-friendly resources on the topic without bringing any political views into it. You can find the resources HERE. Remember, it’s okay if you can’t answer all the questions your child might have – take it as an opportunity to discover the answers together.
2. Listen to your child.
To start the conversation about climate change with your child, find out what they already know and how they feel about the topic. You might be surprised by how much your child already knows and can express. Use it as a chance to listen to their fears and hopes for the planet. Give them your full attention and don’t dismiss or try to minimize any worries they have. Let them know they can always come to you to talk about anything.
3. Use simple science
You know your child best, so make sure the information is appropriate for them. A good starting point can be to find ways to relate climate change to their daily lives and explore the basic facts together. For example: “Humans are burning fossil fuels like coal and oil to run cars, fly planes and light homes. These all release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that wrap around the planet like a bubble, making the climate hotter. A hotter planet means changes in weather, such as more floods and more storms. As the planet gets warmer, the polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise. It’s a serious problem, but many scientists and lots of young people are working hard to find solutions and make positive changes. And, there are many things we can do as well.”
This can now lead to the empowering part of the conversation:
4. Focus on Solutions
For every problem you discuss, try to show a solution. Explore with your child examples of people who are working on ways to address climate change. Discuss positive and inspiring stories you see on the news or in your own community. Talk about what steps you can take as a family, such as reducing waste in your home, saving water, recycling, or switching off unused lights and appliances. This helps to reinforce the idea that everyone can do something to help address climate change. Discuss ideas for other measures you can take as a family or in the community. Could you choose to walk or bike rather than take a car? Could you plant a tree?
On this week’s podcast episode “What is Climate Change and What Can We Do About It? S3, Ep 4”, we talk about some things kids and families can do to help reduce their carbon footprint and help combat climate change. You can listen to the episode HERE or you can watch the episode on YouTube HERE. There’s a free activity PDF that kids and families can do. You can download that HERE.
If you haven’t had this conversation with your kids, consider starting it. Remember, chances are high they are not only thinking about it, they are anxious about it. Talking and providing positive action steps can greatly reduce that anxiety.
Go have a climate changing conversation at YOUR house!
K.B. and Crew
P.S. If you want a deeper dive, more home activities, facts, lesson plan, and vocabulary words to give your kids a fuller learning experience, there's a full activity packet for purchase HERE. You can get the activity PDF or the lesson plan, or bundle both together for a discount. Regardless, the podcast episode and episode activity PDF are free.