How to Talk to Kids About Climate Change
Amira Azoulay, a 14-year-old Climate Kid, shares Four Pathways to Talk to Kids About Climate Change
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As parents, we’re on a constant path to strike a balance. We want to protect our kids from harm and negativity in the world. At the same time, we want to teach and prepare them for the future so they know they’ve got choices — like choosing kindness, taking action, and helping others — as they pick their own path.
Climate change can be one of those tricky issues to talk about. Because of climate change, we’re constantly bombarded by negative imagery and stories, and frankly, we’re overwhelmed. But our children are the ones who will really be dealing with the impacts of climate change — it’s the reality for this generation and generations to come.
To help parents everywhere approach the topic with kids in a way that feels truthful, actionable, and nurtured with a solid dose of hope, our global headquarters teamed up with Climate Kids, a U.S.-based organisation, for kid-led expert advice. Climate Kids has been educating youth on climate change through art, science, and storytelling for years. And now 14-year-old founding Climate Kid Amira Azoulay is sharing her climate change knowledge below.
Amira, at age seven, and her mother Amber Pairis, founder of Climate Kids, lead a lesson on climate change for students in San Diego, California.
Fundamentals and Facts on Climate Change
A good first step is finding the right language to explain to your kids what climate change is. Before you dive into the conversation, we recommend brushing up on the core of the issue, starting with fundamentals and facts.
What Is Climate Change and What Causes It?
Climate change is caused by the increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that act like a heat-trapping blanket around the Earth. The more greenhouse gases, the thicker the blanket and the warmer Earth gets. Human activities have caused an increase in greenhouse gases, which causes the systems that regulate heat and climate (such as oceans, soils, and forests) to become unbalanced, making it feel like the planet has a fever. As we continue to use non-renewable energy sources, we contribute to the increase of greenhouse gases and the Earth’s fever.
Building climate hope is more important than ever because it is the creativity, innovation, and solutions that our children will bring forward that will help shape our future.
Facts About Climate Change:
- The Earth’s climate is changing and has been at an increasingly rapid rate for the past 200 years.
- Climate change is caused by humans releasing fossil fuels and other greenhouse gases into the environment.
- Over time, these molecules build up and act as a thick blanket that traps heat around the Earth.
- Climate change is affecting Earth’s natural balance and is causing more extreme weather events around the world.
Conversation, Community, Hope, and Impact
4 Pathways to Talk to Kids About Climate Change
1. Learn to cultivate truthful conversations paired with simple, small-scale solutions.
Many sources we get our information from focus primarily on doom and gloom and much less on all the things we can do to help. But not being truthful with your kids doesn’t mean you’re protecting them. Far from that.
At Climate Kids, we believe these conversations are an important way to show your respect for and trust in your kids. It also shows how much you believe in them.
- Foster conversations with facts paired with small solutions within the scope of your family’s abilities.
- If your kids are learning about endangered species and extinctions, you can talk about supporting nature in your own garden, windowsill, or patio.
- If the topic is the amount of food waste that ends up in the landfill, consider having a small compost to reuse your leftovers. In turn, you will get soil for your garden.
- Take family walks while actively showing respect for your local environment. Stay on trails and quietly observe wildlife. Here are more things you can do for wildlife.
- Read books about the environment. There’s a great book list here.
2. Create a community of supportive individuals.
Building a strong support system of like-minded people who believe in and support your children is an essential part of maintaining climate hope. Think family, friends, teachers, and more. This tight-knit community can help your child combine learning with fun, hands-on activities to make enjoyable memories and change the world for the better.
Check out these community-minded activities for learning about climate change:
- A school club or project that focuses on learning about the environment:
- Form or participate in a nature or eco club
- Create a school garden
- Go on a field trip to a nature reserve
- Activities with family and friends to help the community:
- Clean up a beach, community, or local park
- Plant native species in your area
- Learn more about climate change and share what you learn
3. Find hope and ideas for the present by looking to the past.
We’re doing the work. Collectively. Change-making humans have been at it for decades, collaborating to solve large-scale problems.
We can think back to the hole in the ozone layer in the late twentieth century, the banning of certain pesticides harmful to birds and insects, and realise that when we come together, we can make lots of amazing things happen.
To reinforce the idea that we can overcome challenges by working together, you and your children can:
4. Look for areas where you can make changes in your community, home, school, and everyday life.
Small changes add up to big impact, and there’s no better time to start than right now. So get involved!
- Volunteer at a local organisation that works in your community. There are often local nonprofits focused on issues like bicycle-friendly roads and regional land preservation. And those organisations are packed full of helpers who welcome newcomers who are curious and who want to make a difference.
- Encourage your children to look to areas where they can make small-scale changes.
- Do your kids enjoy gardening? If so, support them in creating a local garden!
- Do they love animals and insects and have a passion for magnifying glasses and binoculars? Help them educate their classmates about the native species of your area!
- Do they find joy in helping in the kitchen or on trips to the grocery store? Learn about shopping seasonally and locally! Check out this fun Climate Kids cookbook for recipes and more.
- Make small sustainable changes, like walking or cycling instead of driving, or shopping at a thrift store before buying new clothes.
- Remind them that they aren’t responsible for everything. Every little change matters. We all have a part to play and it all adds up.
- There are so many ways for your kids to get involved and make small-scale changes. Brainstorm big ideas together using this Youth Climate Challenge packet.
Learn more about what you can do at Climate Kids’ “Climate 101”.
About Climate Kids
Climate Kids, a program of the U.S.-based Climate Science Alliance, educates youth on climate change through science, art, and storytelling. The Climate Science Alliance works to safeguard natural and human communities in the face of a changing climate by increasing awareness of climate change impacts, promoting solutions, and facilitating actions.
The Climate Science Alliance and Climate Kids teams acknowledge the Indigenous peoples on whose traditional territory we work. We honor the continued presence and resilience of Indigenous communities and nations today, and we thank those we work with for your friendship and your goodwill in our efforts to collaborate.