Climate change is one of these topics that can leave us speechless. How can we respond to children’s concerns in an age-appropriate way without creating anxious or despondent children? These days, concerning news about climate change is ubiquitous and children depend on us to help them deal with this complex and scary topic. This might seem like an insurmountable challenge, but a gentle, supportive approach can have long-lasting positive effects on our children and the environment.
“All living things grow and thrive when we care for them.” This straight-forward message is the prerequisite for all eco efforts and there are many things we can do to support children’s love and care for all life around them.
“Take responsibility for your actions.”
Holding oneself and others accountable for their actions might be one of the most important things we can teach our children. There is no better way to show what this looks like than leading by example.
- Set sustainability goals for yourself and share them with the children: “I will use reusable shopping bags when going to the shops.”
- Talk to the children about your own struggles to do the right thing and how you motivate yourself to stick to your goals: “Sometimes, when I’m really tired, I don’t want to walk to work but it makes me happy to see the birds and all the beautiful flowers on the way.”
- Together with the children, establish eco-friendly habits and consistently follow the new rules: “I will always shut the doors when the air conditioner is on.”
“There is a lot we can do to help.”
Instilling this message will empower children to implement small changes for a more sustainable world.
- Talk to the children about different ways to save energy: How can we make sure we turn the lights off when we go outside to play in the yard?
- Discuss mindful use of resources: How can we best look after our toys? Can we get them fixed when they are broken? How many toys do we need in the first place?
- Speak about cleaning up after ourselves: How can we make sure there is no rubbish left outside before we go home for the day? Can we build a compost in our yard? Are we recycling our rubbish?
“We recognise your efforts.”
Showing children that their efforts are noticed can go a long way. Positive reinforcement can be a highly effective tool for encouraging positive behaviour.
- It could be as simple as saying, “Thank you for turning off the lights, that’s helping the planet.”
- Talk to the children about recognising other children’s contribution: What could they say when they see another child cleaning up rubbish or turning off the tap?
- Encourage children to share eco-friendly measures at home: A child convinced their parents to walk to the centre twice a week instead of driving? This is a great success everyone should know about!
In my opinion, our children should be equipped with a positive can-do mindset to tackle the climate challenges ahead. However, let’s not forget that is it not our children’s responsibility to repair the damage caused by previous generations. Our children need to know that we, the adults, are in charge and that we need to do our utmost to protect our planet.
In the STEM Hour webinar on 12 November, our panel will discuss age-appropriate ways to explore the effects of climate change on our planet and will help us provide answers to children’s questions about climate change.
Article author: Heike Hendershot
National Training Manager
Heike manages the development of our workshop content and supports our training facilitators. A critical thinker with the ability to wonder, she believes in honouring each child’s individual skills and abilities.