"So. Mom and Dad, what's next for our planet?": Talking to Our Children about Climate Change

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   Last week in a fifth-grade art class students were discussing Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist from Sweden who sailed over to NYC to address the United Nations during its UN Summit on Climate Change (to be held September 23rd). As students were preparing art projects that would demonstrate their feelings about our impending global crisis, one ten-year was noticeably upset and asked to leave the room. As the teacher met with this young person, she discovered that thoughts about climate change and impending weather challenges had created an untenable existential crisis: how can we just go on with life as usual when doom is around the corner? (If you have or have raised a fifth grader, you know that such thoughts definitely can pop up!)

            Whether or not you believe in climate change as a result of human activity, your children are hearing about these issues on a regular basis. You also may be feeling anxiousness about climate change: the recent experience of Bahamians during Hurricane Dorian has brought us more images and stories of devastation and hopelessness.

So - what can we say to our children?

·         "Feeling anxious is typical in the face of the unknown": try to normalize feelings so children do not feel alone in their thoughts. Let them know you feel anxious sometimes, too.

·         "Let's create a toolbox for dealing with our worries": Relaxation breathing, mindfulness techniques, visualizations, expressive art projects, exercise, and just plain talking it out can help. Try these ideas with your children and focus on the ones that work well for you and for them.

·         "I don't have all of the answers": I am reminded of the Serenity Prayer, which asks for courage to change the things we can change and serenity to accept the things we cannot change. Current research suggests that, without massive efforts by governments and industries, the next ten to twenty years will bring major lifestyle changes to most of the planet. We adults can vote, write to our representatives, boycott businesses that ignore climate issues, and make some changes in our daily habits. Our children don't have the same options most of the time.

·         "Let's discuss how we can change our lifestyle as a family": Fly less, drive less, consume less, and our old standby of "reduce/recycle/reuse" - these can help. Understanding the relationship between food choices and methane emissions can lead to family dietary changes. Have the children join you in researching how families can help.

·         "Let's participate in the wider community of climate activists": Find out who is organizing groups to promote a healthy environment and climate awareness. Start locally - perhaps with the Oyster Reef Project here on City Island - and then see what else is going on. Children will find comfort in the community of others who share similar ideas about saving the planet.

So - what are you waiting for?

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This page contains a single entry by John published on September 11, 2019 12:07 PM.

Let's Celebrate June with Our Families: Fatherhood, Commencement, and Summer was the previous entry in this blog.

How to be an advocate for your child as well as for your child's teacher... is the next entry in this blog.

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