I was driving my 7-year-old Tom home from school a couple of weeks back, and he noticed a newly installed solar system on our next-door neighbor’s roof. What followed was a fairly “grown up” conversation with my son that I never expected.
As we sat in the driveway still strapped in, he asked what is that, what’s it for, why do they need it etc. Before I knew it I was going on a full blown climate change rant that I’m not sure he was ready for. I first explain why solar panels are good for the environment because solar power is renewable energy and is helping to reduce carbon emissions, which is a major contributor to climate change.
The conversation continued as we went inside and he, like all curious 7 year olds do, kept on with the questions.
He had a genuine interest and I wasn’t sure how much I should be telling him?
Is climate anxiety really a thing?
My main concern was I would cause some kind of “climate anxiety” which I read was a thing.
My little guy is pretty switched on, but I didn’t want to push it.
As we continued and my wife Mel gave her two cents worth about the benefits of planting trees and what we can do at home to help, it dawned on me that this might be exactly the right age to be introducing our future leaders to the topic.
I figured kids are smart and they do understand the news and adult conversations that go on in the background, so maybe some of this climate anxiety they are feeling is because we are not talking straight with them.
If they are hearing in the playground like “my mum said we are all gunna die in 12 years” then having some solid information from your own mum and dad is going to help.
Is there a right age?
When it comes to climate change, you have to be careful as a parent what you are teaching your kids, but I’m thinking more and more that when you teach your kids is just as important.
When I talked to my son, I realized he was more concerned with what is going on around us than I thought. I think this would be the same for kids of similar ages.
After a bit more investigation online I found some great resources and I thought I would pass on everything I learned.
How to teach kids about climate change
Here are some steps to follow to make sure it works well.
1.Take everything slow
Do not tell them everything at once. Take them slowly by making sure that they understand everything slowly to avoid anxiety. Make sure you do it step by step. Giving them a doomsday dystopian scenario is not going to help them learn in a positive and constructive way.
2. Have the facts
Depending on the age of your kid, they may ask you so many questions. Kids may also have some little information from the school. If their knowledge is correct, then you can add to and and reassure them with some new facts.
Sticking more to what we are doing and what we could be doing better is more constructive than bashing oil companies or getting political.
3. Use evidence of success
I think if you are going to keep them relaxed about the whole subject, using examples of things that we are already doing to fight it is the best approach.
You can talk about thinks like planting trees as they store Co2, installing solar panels, Tesla cars etc.
3. Make sure there is someone else talking to them
When a story comes from more than one person, it is easier to believe. Having a different perspective will help.
4. Show them how to take part
Letting kids know they are helping by taking part in things like "plant a tree day", recycling at home, walking to school and not taking the bus and anything else you can think of. This will solidity the concept and also put them at ease a little as they know they are helping.
What did I miss?
I'm sure I missed a bunch of important points. Please let me know if you have had a similar conversation with your kids. How did it go? Any pointers for me?