By Lora Shinn
Sex. Drugs. Global extinction. When difficult subjects come up, it's not easy being a parent — especially when that subject is climate change.
Introducing the Concepts to Young Children (Ages 0–6)<p><strong>Inspire environmental wonder in little ones.</strong></p><p>Since younger children won't easily understand concepts such as <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/greenhouse-effect-101" target="_blank">greenhouse gases</a> and <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/what-you-need-know-about-ocean-acidification" target="_blank">ocean acidification</a>, start out with a more straightforward message: Living things grow and thrive when we care for them. Children learn through doing, so try planting seeds or caring for animals as a way to <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-raise-environmentalist" target="_blank">raise young environmentalists</a>.</p><p>Noticing, appreciating and celebrating the seasons builds a good foundation for understanding climate change, suggests Ronnie Citron-Fink, a former schoolteacher and now the editorial director of <a href="https://www.momscleanairforce.org/" target="_blank">Moms Clean Air Force</a>. On hikes, note how leaves fall from trees in autumn, then sprout again in spring. Point out migrating birds or butterflies that come and go with the seasons.</p><p><strong>Recognize small actions demonstrating respect for the planet.</strong></p><p>In the short- and long-term, it's beneficial to instill the idea of cleanup responsibility. "It's thinking about the impact you have — if you make a mess where plants and animals live, it can hurt them, and if you clean up, it helps them," Greenspun said. Additionally, though the idea of "sharing" can be challenging for people of any age, young children should be encouraged to share Earth's space with other living things.</p><p>Likewise, praise kids when they take initiative. That could be as simple as saying "Thank you for turning off the lights, that's helping the planet." Many of us forget to take this step, said Robin Gurwitch, a professor and clinical psychologist at Duke University Medical Center and the Center for Child and Family Health. "When people most important to us notice our actions," she said, "we're more likely to do again and carry it forward."</p><p><strong>Keep their faith in humanity alive (it might help restore yours, too).</strong></p><p>"For most children under age 5 or 6, the world is a good place, with people taking care of it," said Mary DeMocker, author of <em>The Parents' Guide to Climate Revolution: 100 Ways to Build a Fossil-Free Future, Raise Empowered Kids, and Still Get a Good Night's Sleep</em>. Remind kids that so many grownups care about kids' futures and about nature, and they are working to protect both. "They need to know the adults are in charge, and they've got this," DeMocker added.</p><p>In the same vein, avoid processing your own anxieties while talking to young kids, who easily pick up on our emotions. While important to be open about your climate change concerns, do it out of your kids' earshot, by talking with other parents or <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/resistance-your-backyard" target="_blank">banding together with fellow activists in your community</a>.</p>
Teaching the Basics to School-Age Kids (Ages 6–12)<p><strong>Explain the science, simply.</strong></p><p>First, gauge what your kids may already know. If they're familiar with the term <em>climate change</em>, ask them to tell you what they've heard about it. Kids sometimes overhear strange ideas, as we know from some of <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/trump-lies#sec-climate" target="_blank">the lies</a> circulated by climate change deniers in our own government. Acknowledge these false claims for what they are, explaining that some people care more about making money or hanging onto power than about the health of our planet. This may be a tough discussion, but it will help you recognize and validate the outrage that kids may feel at older generations.</p><p>Once you've dispelled the myths, you can explain the more abstract idea of climate change by using the blanket analogy. Gurwitch suggests describing it this way: "Our world is protected by a layer surrounding the Earth, like a blanket that keeps it at just the right temperature. With global warming, there are more and more blankets being put around the Earth. We can't just toss them off. So we're figuring out how to change back to the right kind and number of blankets."</p><p><strong>Emphasize how we're trying to solve the problem.</strong></p><p>Pivot to the positive changes we're making immediately after discussing the challenges. "Children can be frightened if they don't know there are adults who care about climate change and are trying to fix problems," noted Greenspun. "It can help battle the sense of helplessness and powerlessness."</p><p>Let them know that there are, in fact, millions of adults who are working to protect kids, to answer our own questions about climate change, and to figure out the steps we will take to get to where we need to be, together.</p><p>DeMocker suggests offering kid-friendly examples of innovations and solutions, too, including <a href="http://www.pandagreen.com/show-342.html" target="_blank">Chinese solar farms designed in the shape of pandas</a> and <a href="https://www.playgroundenergy.com/" target="_blank">playgrounds that create energy</a>. Some of these solutions will be relatable to your child — like the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/green-your-school" target="_blank">Turn It Off campaign</a> students have championed to decrease emissions produced by idling drivers, and the Meatless Mondays initiative <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/new-york-city-students-are-taking-climate-change-starting-lunchroom" target="_blank">sweeping school cafeterias</a> to lessen the climate impact of weekday lunches.</p><p><strong>Discuss the power of personal action.</strong></p><p>In grade school, children understand cause and effect, so it's a good time to talk about what kids can do to decrease carbon emissions, with your help. Maybe this is biking or carpooling to school, <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-shop-energy-efficient-light-bulbs" target="_blank">switching out incandescent light bulbs for energy-efficient LEDs</a>, or setting up <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/composting-way-easier-you-think" target="_blank">a home composting system</a>. One note of caution, though: Kids of all ages notice adult inconsistencies. If we talk about the importance of recycling but don't <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/reduce-reuse-recycle-most-all-reduce" target="_blank">cut single-use items out of our daily routine</a>, we may face some tough questions.</p>
Holding Open Discussions with Preteens (Ages 12–14)<p><strong>Encourage climate change questions — even if you can't always answer them.</strong></p><p>Tweens are driven by scientific curiosity, awareness, and a sense of civic responsibility. When they're seeking answers to big questions, you can embark with them on the hunt. Start teaching children about how to find trusted resources for climate science information — and what disinformation is out there. However, there's no need to follow every web link. "If we're not careful, the information can become overwhelming and swamp us," Gurwitch said, and can lead to a sense of futility or unrealistic expectations.</p><p><strong>Engage children's personal strengths in expressing their concerns.</strong></p><p>Maybe your middle-schooler loves polar bears or is worried about air pollution. Communicate that small acts to spread awareness can have ripple effects and encourage them to speak out. Some children feel comfortable <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/13-year-old-gives-us-hope-future" target="_blank">giving presentations to other kids</a>, others will prefer to work on poster campaigns and <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/landlocked-vienna-humpback-spreads-powerful-message" target="_blank">group art projects</a>, and others might perform <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/watch-these-young-spoken-word-poets-take-climate-change" target="_blank">spoken-word poetry</a>. Invite outgoing kids to join a rally with you. DeMocker, whose family lives in Eugene, Oregon, began attending climate protests with her children at this age, joining symbolic kayak blockades of the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/bomb-train-derailment-sparked-resistance-columbia-river-gorge" target="_blank">Columbia River</a> to protest fossil fuel exports. "We modeled simple living, but also civic engagement," she said.</p>
Branching Out With Teens (Ages 15–18)<p><strong>Don't be afraid to let your teen educate <em>you </em>on climate change.</strong></p><p>After all, when it comes to climate change, your teen may be more aware of the latest research on fossil fuels and <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/green-your-college-dorm-room" target="_blank">lighting alternatives</a> than you are."We can all learn from our children and listen to them," Greenspun said. Many of us might react defensively, due to guilt or frustration over not doing more. "We all need to have the humility to step back and look at parts of ourselves we don't necessarily like to look at," she said.</p><p>So if your vegetarian teen confronts you over burgers, ask questions and reflect back their thoughts: How did you decide to become a vegetarian? How do you feel to live in a family with meat-eaters? Can you think of some solutions or compromises?</p><p><strong>Share news articles with your teens about their peers making a difference.</strong></p><p>The Youth Climate Movement is flourishing, and there are many inspiring examples you can point to spotlighting young people <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/friday-school-out-and-climate-strike" target="_blank">standing up for their generation's future</a>. "It's empowering for teens to see that the government and people are taking them seriously," said Citron-Fink. "It shows them that their voices matter."</p><p>This will also help encourage teens to channel climate outrage and worry into action and to focus on the things they can have control over. That's important for their mental health, since as Greenspun pointed out, "Obsessing over all the things we don't know and can't do anything about often contributes to stress and anxiety."</p><p><strong>Discuss coping strategies — what to do when you feel scared, angry, and overwhelmed.</strong></p><p>It might be a breathing practice, talking to a friend or grandparent, or going for a walk. "Review with kids what they've found helpful in the past, when they've gone through something hard," Greenspun said.</p><p>On the other hand, some teens might act as if they don't care about climate change. "There might need to be a little more digging to find out what that's really about," Greenspun said. "Underneath the bravado of not caring, there's often a lot of fear and sadness."</p><p>It's also important to focus on the good news: If humans are to blame for getting into this crisis, humans can also get us back on track. And the latest reports on climate change all emphasize that <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/our-land-key-solving-climate-crisis" target="_blank">we do have solutions in reach</a>. "Reassure kids that the scientists say we still have time to avoid the worst climate impacts," DeMocker said. "Scientists are telling us how to turn this around," she added — and many of us are listening.</p>
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A lot of people are talking about climate change, and a lot of people are very worried about it. Children and grown-ups are protesting and you might hear some scary things about the future. People don't know yet how things will turn out in 10 years, 20 years or a 100 years from now.
1. Why are so many children skipping school?<p>Kids are worried. They're not happy that the adults in charge — those who should be making our lives better — seem to be ignoring the problem of climate change, or just not doing enough to stop the world from getting too hot.</p><p>Students hope that by <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/berlin-climate-protesters-brave-icy-weather-and-waters/a-51463670" target="_blank">walking out of school with banners and megaphones</a>, and getting together with other people who want things to change, that their voices will be heard. They want the politicians, those people who make the big decisions, to get together and come up with solutions to climate change and find a way to fix the damage we've done.</p><p><em>[<a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/global-climate-strikes-week-2640790405.html">Read how September's global climate strike was one of the largest global protests in history</a>.]</em></p><p>World leaders met and agreed that they would do that. But so far, they haven't done enough to stop our planet from getting dangerously hot.</p>
2. And what exactly is climate change?<p>That's a tricky one. Plenty of adults don't understand a lot of the details about climate change. It's a problem caused by "greenhouse gases."</p><p>A greenhouse is made of glass that traps the sun's heat but doesn't let it back out again, so that inside, it gets hotter. The same thing happens with the Earth's atmosphere, which holds in the heat from the sun to keep us all nice warm (out in space, we'd quickly freeze!).</p><p>But gases that come from factories, power plants and cars and get into the atmosphere are making the planet too hot.</p><p>Most of the energy we use to make things, keep the lights on and our homes warm, turn on the air-con and power transport, comes from burning fuels like oil, gas and coal. These are called fossil fuels and when they are burned, they release carbon. Once it gets into the atmosphere, it traps a lot of heat. </p><p>Cutting down trees can also make the world hotter, because trees take carbon out of the atmosphere and store it safely away.</p><p>When the planet gets hotter, how the weather changes is different from place to place — and hard to predict. You may have heard older people talk about how winters used to be snowy, or seen pictures of melting glaciers. In some places, deserts are getting bigger and in summer it can be too hot to go outside.</p><p>But in other parts of the world it can actually get colder, rainier or more stormy: For example, when the glaciers melt, all that icy water goes into the sea, making it colder, changing the flows of water and air — and the weather. And when it gets hot, more water evaporates, making more rain.</p>
3. Is the world going to end?<p>No — planet Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and it has been through lots of changes, getting hotter and colder at different times. But the animals and plants that live here now like the climate just the way it is. If it changes too much, many will die.</p><p>Unusual weather — too much rain or not enough, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/mozambique-after-cyclone-idai-some-people-have-not-eaten-in-weeks/a-48425783" target="_blank">huge storms</a>, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/europe-heat-wave-sparks-massive-wildfire-in-spain-record-temperatures-in-france/a-49382191" target="_blank">hotter summers</a>, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/amazon-wildfires-leaders-pressure-brazil-to-quell-international-crisis/a-50132482" target="_blank">forest fires</a> and <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/venice-third-exceptional-flood-makes-week-worst-on-record/a-51286635" target="_blank">floods</a> — is also making it harder to grow the food we eat every day. In some places, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-change-compounds-hunger-conflicts-german-aid-group-says/a-49361846" target="_blank">there isn't enough food and water</a>.</p><p>Climate change could mean <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-change-has-become-a-health-emergency/a-51209280" target="_blank">more people will become sick</a>. And some people have to leave their homes and look for a safer place to live, sometimes far away in another country.</p><p>To stop the world getting too hot, we have to change the way we live. People are comfortable living their lives a certain way, getting around in gas-powered cars and airplanes and finding everything they want in stores, and they may fear giving up that way of life.</p>
4. But what does that have to with me?<p><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/pollution" rel="noopener noreferrer">Pollution</a> can come from many things; nearly everything we do in our daily life has an effect on the climate. That's why we're trying to fly less, reuse our shopping bags and buy fewer things, or get our food from the farms closer to home.</p><p>Think about plastic water bottles. Before they show up in the store, somebody has to make the bottle, fill it with water and move it to the store by truck. And then, once we're done with it, we usually just get rid of it right away — by recycling, when we can, or just tossing it in the trash. All that has an effect on the planet, by creating more pollution in the air, using up fresh water and making more garbage.</p>
5. So what can I do to help?<p>We can make small contributions, like remembering to turn off the lights when we leave a room, eating less meat and composting our garbage. We can also walk places or go by bike, or go on vacations closer to home so we can take the train, which uses less energy and makes less pollution than a plane.</p><p>Everyone can make changes in their daily life that mean there will be less pollution. And while our choices alone aren't enough to fix the problem, they can help to convince companies and politicians to make bigger changes.</p><p>Just by asking these questions — and learning from books or from interesting TV and movies — and talking about climate change and the environment with other people in your life, you're helping to spread the message. And the more that people know about the problem, the better chance we have of doing something about it.</p>
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In recent decades, the education of girls around the world has increased dramatically. But climate change threatens to reverse some of that progress.
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I’m a Psychotherapist – Here’s What I’ve Learned From Listening to Children Talk About Climate Change
By Caroline Hickman
Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?
Healing the Generational Rift<p>I asked the children to personify climate change — to see it as an animal and give it a voice. If climate change could talk, what would it say? I hoped that by externalizing that voice, they could talk more honestly than they otherwise would. Even so, I wasn't fully prepared for their responses.</p><blockquote>You created me, and now you must face the consequences… You spoilt the planet for the children and animals, now I'm going to spoil it for you… Adults have made the world a worse place, so now I'm here for revenge.<br></blockquote><p>Anger was the most common emotion that surfaced with this technique. These complicated emotions about climate change — perhaps difficult to express or articulate in conversation — surprised me, but they probably shouldn't have. Given the severity of climate change and biodiversity loss <a href="https://theconversation.com/climate-change-weve-created-a-civilisation-hell-bent-on-destroying-itself-im-terrified-writes-earth-scientist-113055" target="_blank">predicted in their lifetimes</a>, anger seems appropriate.</p><p>What was also uncovered in these conversations was an enduring empathy for the creatures they share the world with. These children could recognize their own vulnerability in the face of climate change, but it didn't eclipse their concern for the natural world. Instead, they expressed solidarity and empathy with other species. One said:</p><blockquote>Climate change is like the bug spray of nature, and people are the bugs.<br></blockquote><p>I believe children are bearing the emotional burden of climate change more courageously than adults, but we owe it to them to share it. Listen to your children when they talk about climate change, you'll learn more about how we should take responsibility for the mess, say sorry, and start to act.</p>
Now, a study from University of Southern California researchers suggested that early exposure to traffic pollution increases the risk of childhood obesity in later life, adding more evidence that dirty air is a public health threat to children.
By Reynard Loki
Many children play with toys that evoke the bucolic life on a farm. And many will likely visit a small local farm, where animals have space and access to sunlight and the outdoors. But most kids are probably not aware that, for the vast majority of farmed animals, life is anything but happy.
Spending time in nature is known to boost mental and emotional health. Now, a new global study has found that children in 27 developing nations tend to have more diverse diets and better nutrition when they live near forests.
The paper, published Wednesday in Science Advances, provides evidence that forest conservation can be an important tool in promoting better nutrition in developing countries, rather than clear-cutting forests for more farmland.
By Jordan Davidson
We often talk about leaving the world a better place for our children. But our kids are not standing idly by while we wonder how to clean up the mess we've made. Energetic, adept with technology and enthusiastic to create change, kids already have the tools to become stewards of the planet's ecological health. And they are ready to start now.
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Climate change poses a key risk to low-lying Florida. When Climate Central ranked the 25 U.S. coastal cities that would be most vulnerable to coastal flooding in 2050 due to sea level rise projections, 20 of them were in the Sunshine State.
But Florida Governor Rick Scott has a history of sticking his head in the disappearing sand. In 2015, reports surfaced that his government had banned the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from even using the words "climate change" in reports. Though he denies those charges, he also denies climate change. When asked to comment on it, he famously replied, "I'm not a scientist."
By Molly M. Ginty
You shun Styrofoam tableware, buy organic oranges and even get your kids to eat leafy greens. But are you doing all you can to protect your children from toxic chemicals that may lurk inside their favorite foods?
Phthalates are a particularly harmful type of chemical, used, among a range of other ways, to soften plastic in children's toys and products like pacifiers and teething rings. In response to mounting concern about the serious health impacts of phthalates—most notably, interference with hormone production and reproductive development in young children—Congress voted overwhelmingly in 2008 to outlaw the use of a few phthalates in these products and ordered the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to assess the use of other types of the chemical in these products. After much delay, the CPSC voted 3–2 Wednesday to ban five additional types of phthalates in kids' toys and childcare products.