Some subjects are very difficult to talk about with your kids. You know the ones, the weighty stuff about life and death can be hard to explain. And although being up front and honest is a priority, some things are hard to talk about because they are accompanied by a sense of frustration over the fact that there’s nothing you can do about it.
Many parents feel that way about the climate change crisis. But, the good news is you don’t have to worry about how to discuss this issue with your kids. In fact, the more you talk about it with them, the better they’ll understand it. And, it will provide a strong foundation for their own eco-conscious principles.
The following four tips can help you discuss climate change with your kids in an upfront and effective way, regardless of how old they are.
Be Ready with Interactive Facts
Before you sit down to discuss environmental issues with your kids, it can really help to have some facts on hand that demonstrate the problem. There are many trustworthy organisations and websites that provide lists of facts and other kid-friendly activities and graphics.
Having things available for your kids to interact with, such as an online ecological footprint calculator, can help them visualise what’s currently happening and also identify ways that they can become part of the solution. Typically, an ecological footprint calculator will provide the household carbon footprint, but also break down the areas that are the biggest emissions generators.
Not only that, it will show the environmental impact of carbon emissions beyond just calculating greenhouse gases. This will give you a great opportunity to point out the things that your family can do immediately to reduce your impact.
Plus, a number of educational websites include colouring pages, dot-to-dot drawings and other age appropriate printables. For older kids, you can find community based programs that the entire family can get involved with, like planting trees and community clean up projects.
Before you sit down with your kids, get your information and resources ready. This will make the discussion go much smoother and ensure that it’s productive.
Rather than having a doomsday attitude about the climate crisis, make up your mind to stay positive about the things both you and your kids can do to be a part of the solution. The climate crisis is a big and scary problem, and many kids can be seriously impacted by their fears because it can feel impossible to solve.
Staying positive during the discussion can help minimise the futile feeling, and provide real benefits by giving your children reasons to hope and (possibly) invent new ways to lower emissions and reduce the consumption of ecological resources.
The climate crisis is a serious issue, but you can ensure that your kids understand the severity, while simultaneously inspiring them to do more to reverse the current situation.
Offer Ways to Be Part of the Solution
As part of keeping the discussion positive, emphasise the things that you can all do to reduce the impact your lifestyle has on the planet. Go beyond simple reduce, reusing and recycling ideas. Explore the technical solutions that can be employed to combat climate change (there are plenty!)
This is also a great way to foster scientific thought processes and fire the spirit of emulation in your children. Some ideas to discuss include:
- Clean energy alternatives
- The weather around the world
- MIT’s research on methane capture technology
- Tree planting projects
With tree planting carbon offsets, you can explain that this is one of the easiest and most effective ‘carbon conversion’ technologies available because it was developed by nature and anyone can do it. However, it’s important to discuss the need for planting trees the ‘right’ way.
Afforestation projects that plant non-native species which will be harvested in 20 years don’t really help in the long run. But rebuilding rainforests that were cleared and burned, using native species plants which will be protected indefinitely, are the sorts of reforestation projects that have immediate potential to lower the dangerous co2 levels in the atmosphere.
You can explain to your kids that supporting this type of carbon offset tree planting program also includes the added benefits of habitat restoration, which helps reduce the threat of extinction for some endangered animals.
Listen to Your Kids’ Ideas
While it likely goes without saying, don’t approach the climate change discussion as a lecture. Make sure to give your kids time to voice their fears, questions, and ideas to help. You may be surprised with their inventive suggestions.
And, build off their ideas. For example, if your daughter suggests that your family grow their own vegetables, talk about ways to support that idea by possibly installing an in-home composter or worm farm. Or, if you have limited space, discuss ideas on how to make window boxes or a patio ‘cucumber box.’ By listening to your children’s ideas about how they can help reduce the problem, you’ll demonstrate that no one is too small to have an impact for positive change.
Before sitting down with your kids to discuss the climate crisis, make sure that you prepare yourself for the questions they’ll have about what your family can do to become part of the solution. By arming yourself with facts and staying upbeat, you’ll be able to have a productive conversation about ways that you can all do more for the planet.