Sally Gillespie


Research shows that children and young people are anxious about climate issues, and for good reason. They are the generation who will be living with the consequences of a climate altered planet. While it is understandable that parents and carers may feel the urge to protect their children from this difficult reality, avoiding climate conversations does not serve children, parents or our planet well. When children feel they are being heard and supported by their parents about their climate anxieties, it gives them confidence to join in collective actions to restore our planet’s wellbeing. Parents too develop a sense of meaning and hope through acknowledging and acting on climate issues. Here’s a few guidelines for talking about the climate crisis with your kids.

  1. Pitch the conversation to your child’s level of knowledge and age

Find out what your child knows or has heard about climate issues already. Generally it is more than you think. There are no hard and fast rules about what children should know at what age, or what you should discuss, as children’s intellectual and emotional maturing rates vary widely. However in general for young children (up to the age of 7 or so), what is most beneficial are conversations around cultivating care and appreciation for our natural world. One good entry point for conversations can be through environmentally-themed books suitable for their age. Another is doing caring actions like planting flowers for bees and providing water for birds. For older children, climate conversations can develop through watching environmentally themed movies or TV together, such as Damon Gameau’s inspiring film 2040 or Craig Reucassel’s entertaining series Fight for Planet A. Learning about the science together is also important. Check out NASA’s interactive Climate Kids website for facts and activities.

  1. Listen well

Commit to listening to whatever worries or upsets your child about climate and ecological issues while managing your own feelings of anxiety or distress. Try not to rush into false reassurances, or suggest a quick fix or distraction. Instead ask about their feelings, what they are and what prompts them, how frequent they are, and what it is like to have them. As ever, simple direct language is best, with lots of empathy and mirroring (“I understand how upset you feel, it’s hard, these are real worries, and I feel upset/sad about this too.”). Let your child know how normal it is to have these upsetting feelings, that they are not alone in what they feel, and that it helps to talk about this. Very importantly make the link between feelings and actions, so that our kids understand that acknowledging how they feel lays the foundations for committing to collective action to heal our planet. 

  1. Brainstorm ideas for action and inspiration

Children want to hear that the adults in their lives are committed to climate action, and feel that by acting together as a family, they can bring about change. Research and share ideas about what you can do, starting with household activities (eg reducing waste, making compost, turning off switches, walking to school). Link your child’s concerns and passions to actions in your community like kid friendly citizen science programmes such as Backyard Buddies.. Children will also feel more secure and inspired when they hear their parents talking about their own involvement in climate or environmental campaigns. Look for social initiatives, you can do together, like writing letters to politicians, or holding a fundraising stall for a favourite campaign. When you or your child needs encouragement on climate issues, watch videos together showing how responsive our natural world is to restorative actions  Nurture your child’s inspiration by asking what they think is important for Earth healing, as well as what they imagine our world will be like when we care better for our Earth. 

  1. Keep on talking

It is important to make climate and ecological issues and actions an ongoing conversatuion topic. . Do regular check-ins about what your children are learning at school and hearing through social media, and their responses to this. Ongoing honest conversations about the reality of climate issues and the necessity of action develops emotional resilience and commitment for a lifetime of ecological care and action.


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