Parenting has always been difficult and stressful: colicky babies, babies who don’t sleep at night; childhood illness; the pressure of finding the right college or apprenticeship, affording weddings and college bills (can you tell I’m knee deep in the college application process right now!)– these things have been around for a very long time! But the fear and anxiety of the threat that we might be turning a toxic world over to our precious young– that is new!
If (in addition to that colicky baby or sick child) this anxiety keeps you up at night please know that you are not alone! Yale Climate Communications reports that almost 6 in 10 Americans say they are worried about climate change, 2 in 10 are “very worried” and 71% of us think future generations will be affected by climate change.
Not only that but research show that children also are worried about climate change and how it will impact the future. In 2013 a report from UNICEF found that almost 75% of children age 11-16 worry about how climate change will impact their own lives— That’s a pretty big statistic.
But, (again from the Yale Climate Communications study) only 40% of Americans say they even occasionally discuss Climate Change (60% say they never discuss it). And few people do much to change their environmental footprint. Only about 40% of people say they see friends and family making an effort to reduce emissions.
Our Children may hear about environmental topics at school, but it turns out that parents have a much bigger influence than teachers. (And sometimes what they hear in school can increase anxiety and lead to less engagement) Research shows that Children’s views on the environment generally follow their parents. BUT…. research also shows that teens and young adults generally show LESS pro-enviornmental attitudes and behaviors than their parents– UNLESS the parents TALK ABOUT the environment with their kids!
As parents there is a lot that we can do to help prepare our children for the psychological and lifestyle challenges that they will face in a warmer world. So, lets get the conversation started! Here are some of the things we can do to raise kids who can tackle the challenges ahead!
Teach them Mindfulness techniques and how to cope with anxiety
Help them connect with nature through books and experiences
Connect with a community that cares for the earth together
Talk with them about values, actions and emotions related to climate change
Practice pro-environmental behavior to help mitigate the problems