It’s been a funny winter for weather, one of my friends said recently. She’s not wrong. My native UK has just experienced the warmest February day ever – a temperature of 21.2°C was recorded in London. Meanwhile, I’m usually wearing t-shirts at my home on the Mediterranean by now – yet instead we’ve had storms, freezing north winds and seemingly endless torrential rain.
Experts say a few days of freakishly good or bad weather can’t be definitively attributed to climate change, although it’s a factor. But as hot weather extremes become increasingly likely, and children delight in the unexpected warmth, it’s worth thinking about how we address the topic with them.
Is there a ‘right’ age to discuss it?
As with many subjects, you need to judge whether your child is ready. Some kids will hear phrases like ‘climate change’ or ‘greenhouse effect’ and wonder what they mean. They’ll be interested enough to ask questions. Others won’t. Children learn best when they’re interested, so don’t try and force the topic, and pick your moment to introduce it.
Don’t make it too science-y
If your children are young, they’re unlikely to grasp specifics such as exactly how the carbon cycle works. Keep explanations as simple as possible. If they’re interested, you can go into greater details, or help them find resources for more information. But don’t overwhelm them immediately – you’ll just put them off.
Give relatable examples
Talk about the positive things you can do as a family to look after our world. Telling your child we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels won’t mean much, but explaining that using your own cloth bags for grocery shopping helps reduce the use of plastics is more understandable. Kids don’t need to understand the specifics of global warming to know saving water is a good thing.
Make an action plan
Together, make a list of ways your family could be more environmentally friendly. Measure your own carbon footprint using an online calculator and look at ways to reduce it. If they’re motivated to do more, National Geographic has some great suggestions on how kids can take action and make their voices heard. You could also look at tree-planting projects or similar schemes.
Be aware of their fear
Kids get anxious, some more than others. Climate change is a serious issue, but it needs to be framed properly. We want our children to understand the problem, not lie awake at night worrying if the world will still exist when they grow up. It’s ok to say it’s a scary situation but try and focus on the positive actions that are being taken, the success stories, and how they can contribute.