Blog By Hanna Dunnell (Coordinator of Merton Green Parents) and Luisella Lazzarino (Trustee of Sustainable Merton and Volunteer for ClimateED)
Please remember that we are volunteers and local mums and by no means child psychologists or experts on this topic, we are just hoping to start a conversation. For more information on how to join Merton Green Parents, please scroll to the end of this blog post.
🌎 What do you think of when you hear the words 'climate change'? How do you feel? Do you feel overwhelmed? Do you feel scared or motivated to take action? Do you trust others are working on the issue? Regardless of how you feel (and all feelings are valid), you should probably assess your own knowledge and feelings about the current crisis before talking to your child. Make sure you know the facts and try to have a positive approach to the topic.
📝 We have come up with a list of things to consider when talking to children about climate change. This list isn’t exhaustive but will hopefully provide a starting point.
Don’t ignore the topic. Climate change is everywhere and children of any age can easily pick it up in conversations or the media. By not addressing the issue, you can’t support your child in making the right judgement of the situation.
Be careful not to spread fear and burden the child. That probably applies more to younger children who don’t quite understand the very complex issue of climate change. They definitely are not the only ones who should worry about solving the problem. Make sure they know others are working on this issue and it’s “going to be ok”.
Make the communication age-appropriate. Very young children won’t understand how the climate works, so avoid explaining this complex issue and instead nurture a love of nature. Teenagers can and will probably get their own information, so make sure to listen.
Balance science and the child’s emotions and character. Some children are more sensitive than others, some children want to immediately take action. Be mindful that not every approach works for every child.
Make it relatable. Talk about your local environment, is anything changing already?
Spend time outdoors. Children who love spending time in nature are much more likely to protect it.
Encourage action and inspire. This can easily be achieved through books, talking about others taking action and getting involved in your local community.
Lead by example. This is probably our most important point, especially for young children who tend to copy their parent’s behaviour and values!
Our main message is: There are solutions, and everyone has something to contribute regardless of their age 💚
➡️ How to talk to a child that’s under 6 years old?
Children at this age will probably not understand science and/ or climate change, so the best thing you can do is to get them outdoors, learn about seasons, plants, and wildlife and teach them how to care about the environment. If they pick up on climate change, make sure they know they’re going to be okay and other people are working on it.
➡️ How to talk to a child between 6 and 13 years old?
Children at this age often understand the basic science behind climate change, so they can be easily scared or overwhelmed. Make sure they learn how to regulate their emotions and empower them to take action. They’re probably starting to be interested in making a difference.
➡️ How to talk to a child over the age of 13?
Children will most likely access their own information and be influenced by friends. Try to listen, ask questions, be honest about your own feelings and make sure they know where to get the accurate information. If they understand the issue and what has caused it, they might start to blame previous generations. Support them in demanding change and making a difference if you can.
👨👨👦 We have compiled a list of actions you and your family can take:
Protest/write to politicians
Plant trees and do some gardening
Go litter picking (you can join the Waste Warrior weekends organised by Sustainable Merton)
Separate your waste, recycle and compost
Go shopping in second-hand/ charity and zero-waste shops
Identify local birds, trees, and flowers
Use less energy in your home
Eat less meat and dairy
Find more environmentally friendly means of travelling
Rent and share toys, for example through Whirli
Rent children’s clothes, for example through Qookeee
Provide access to relevant media (ie. magazine subscriptions)
Get your child’s nursery/ school involved
Listen to their idea of what you can do (children often come up with brilliant ideas!)
There are a lot of people, books and other resources to inspire children. Here’s a (very small) list:
Successful petition by Ella, 10, and Caitlin, 8,: Save the environment - Stop giving plastic toys with fast food kids meals
David Attenborough documentaries
Every library or bookshop now has a table or shelf dedicated to books on the environment.
How to make a better world by Keilly Swift
Activists Assemble! Save Your Planet by Ben Hoare
Little People, Big Dreams: Greta Thunberg
Great Women who saved the planet by Kate Pankhurst
Clem and Crab by Fiona Lumbers
The Bear in the Stars by Alexis Snell
When we went wild by Isabella Tree
It’s probably best to check with your local bookshop or librarian if they have any age-appropriate recommendations.
📚 Resources for Parents
The Parents Guide to Climate Revolution by Mary DeMocker
📧 We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience of how you communicate with your own children, grandchildren, and children you look after. You can email Merton Green Parents or join our Facebook or WhatsApp group to meet more like-minded parents and keep the conversation going. Email email@example.com to find out how to join or when our next meet-up is planned. We look forward to hearing from you!