5 Tips for Talking to Kids About Climate Change
Guest Post by Shannon Brescher Shea
Science Writer, Author, and Creator of the We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So blog
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article was first published July 16, 2023, on Shannon's blog/writing Substack. It has been reprinted here with her permission:
This weather – the record heat, the poor air quality – is scary and exhausting for adults. But what if you’re a kid? And what if you’re a kid who has heard it’s caused by climate change? Instead of avoiding the term "climate change" when talking to our kids, it’s becoming more important than ever. But there are some ways we can talk to them that are factual, don’t inspire fear, and even help empower them:
Present the facts without panic. Say something like “The weather is so much hotter than it’s been in the past because pollution we’re putting into the atmosphere is making the Earth warmer over many years.” Or for the air quality issues, “They are having bad wildfires in Canada and the smoke is blowing down here. It’s worse than usual because the spring was so dry. The climate is changing because of pollution we put in the atmosphere.”
Talk about what adults are doing to fix it. This is a big part of not sparking climate anxiety. Something like “Many adults are working to build and improve clean sources of energy that don’t make this pollution like solar and wind. Other people are pushing politicians to do even more to address the problem.” If they’re younger kids, you can point out what high schoolers and college students are doing. They feel like adults but not parental figures, which may have even more of a punch.
Involve your kids in making systemic change. Have them envision what a truly sustainable community would look like to them and how it’s different from your own community. Then have them write to local policy makers to tell them what they think of climate change and what they would like to change locally. This is really empowering! Check out the Cultivating Climate Justice At-Home Family Toolkit for a template and more ideas.
Find ways to live more sustainably in your own lives and explain the reasons behind it to your kids, like switching to solar or wind power, eating less meat, biking/walking/ taking public transit instead of driving, etc. This doesn’t replace systemic change though! Check out my book, Growing Sustainable Together, for tips (and tips on activism too).
Make meaning together in your actions. Find ways to be fulfilled through more environmentally-friendly activities, whether that’s more time together, building relationships with neighbors or friends, more time in nature, writing stories, or creating art, etc. This will be what makes your actions personally sustainable as well as environmentally sustainable!
Shannon Brescher Shea is a mom of two sons, nicknamed Sprout (10 years old!) and Little Bird (7 years old). Her husband Chris was a stay-at-home dad who does his best to "somewhat moderate the chaos" and now works for their local school district. Together, their goal is to raise kids who are kind, engaged, and responsible world citizens. Shannon is the creator of the We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So blog (a name inspired by the classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are), in which she writes about her life and topics she cares about, especially parenting, social justice, and sustainability. At her day job, she is a science writer for the federal government. Shannon also has written an environmental parenting advice book, Growing Sustainable Together (North Atlantic Books, June 2020), available anywhere you buy books and included on the Daddying blog's 2022 Books to Read With Your Kids Holiday Gift Guide. In addition, her writing has been published in a number of outlets, including the Washington Post, Romper, Sierra Magazine, and she has guest posted on many other blogs. She lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., with her family. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.