By Tim Lydon
Climate-related disasters are on the rise, and carbon emissions are soaring. Parents today face the unprecedented challenge of raising children somehow prepared for a planetary emergency that may last their lifetimes. Few guidebooks are on the shelves for this one, yet, but experts do have advice. And in a bit of happy news, it includes strategies already widely recognized as good for kids.
PoPositive Stress and Strong Support Networks<p>Wiese defines resilience as the ability to manage stress and adapt to change. Her words are backed by a 2017 American Psychological Association <a href="https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/03/mental-health-climate.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> on the mental health impacts of climate change, which also emphasizes strong caregiver support and the value of resilience. For parents, the report's authors recommend cultivating belief in a child's own resilience, fostering optimism, and teaching children to control emotional responses to change. These are common tenets of modern parenting the report said are made especially important by climate change.</p><p>Psychologists also describe the value of "<a href="https://center.uoregon.edu/StartingStrong/uploads/STARTINGSTRONG2016/HANDOUTS/KEY_49962/TypesofStress.pdf" target="_blank">positive stress,</a>" which may include public speaking, making new friends, and other experiences that can briefly increase heart rates but that help wire young minds to adapt to change. Parents who provide supportive coaching through these normal life experiences help kids develop resilience.</p><p>"Parents also need to model positive and appropriate responses to stress," Wiese said.</p><p>Like many things, what happens earliest in life matters most, but teens and even adults can still improve resilience. The APA offers an online <a href="https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resilience" target="_blank">guide</a> with age-appropriate strategies for parents.</p><p>In contrast, stress related to poverty, malnutrition, violence, or abuse can weaken a child's resilience, acting as "threat multipliers" of their own for children born into the climate change era. In such cases, climate can compound existing stress, potentially increasing odds for substance abuse, anxiety, or depression, according to the authors of the APA report.</p><p>Especially where caregiver support is lacking, coaches, teachers, and other mentors can help young people manage these negative stressors. It's a reminder that entire communities, not just parents, will have a hand in raising climate-resilient children.</p><p>That community focus is an important factor according to Susan Clayton, a psychologist at Wooster College in Ohio and co-editor of <em><a href="https://www.elsevier.com/books/psychology-and-climate-change/clayton/978-0-12-813130-5" target="_blank">Psychology and Climate Change: Human Perceptions, Impacts, and Responses</a>,</em> which summarizes psychological research tied to climate change.</p><p><span></span>"Strong social support networks give children a better foundation in resilience," Clayton said. She lists teachers, clubs, and faith communities as good examples of social networks that become "sources of meaning" for kids.</p>
Connnection to the Outdoors<p>Connecting youths to the outdoors is also important when it comes to climate change. <a href="https://www.parentingscience.com/outdoor-learning.html" target="_blank">Research</a> shows time outdoors, especially at an early age, can reduce childhood stress and anxiety, while strengthening confidence, imagination, and physical health — all characteristics that will help tomorrow's adults adapt to a changing world.</p><p>"Nature-based education [and] therapy are real sources of strength and resilience for young people," Clayton said.</p><p>But not everyone grows up with access to the outdoors, and both climate change and population growth are driving greater <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/03/climate-migrants-report-world-bank-spd/" target="_blank">movement</a> to urban areas worldwide. It means more kids live in developed areas with limited time in nature.</p><p>Fortunately, concern over how much time kids spend hitched to phones and computers has already sparked a <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2019/12/13/nature-based-education/" target="_blank">revival</a> in nature-based education. Parents and teachers today can access a growing network of tested programs. Some, such as <a href="https://www.plt.org/about-us/" target="_blank">Project Learning Tree</a> and the <a href="https://www.neefusa.org/nature/water/benefits-environmental-education" target="_blank">National Environmental Education Foundation</a>, are active across the country, but an expanding galaxy of others function at the local level. At the movement's cutting edge is a growing number of outdoor-focused <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/04/early-childhood-outdoor-education/558959/" target="_blank">preschools</a> and <a href="https://www.rei.com/blog/news/are-outdoor-preschools-the-wave-of-the-future" target="_blank">kindergartens</a> that provide formative experiences in natural settings, including within urban areas.</p><p>Proponents say nature-based education is good for older kids, too, and can spark interest in science and other fields that will be crucial in the decades ahead, as people engineer solutions to climate-related challenges. Such programs may steer teens toward promising careers. But in the short term, learning about science and nature can instill optimism in the face of discouraging climate news.</p>
Discuss and Model Solutions<p>But what about day-to-day actions in the home? Experts agree that discussing climate change and modeling behaviors that reflect climate solutions are important, too. Discussions need to be <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/04/raising-kids-climate-change/554969/" target="_blank">age-appropriate</a> to protect young children from unnecessary stress and anxiety. But exhibiting climate-positive behaviors such as energy conservation and avoiding single-use plastics carries value at all ages. According to Wiese, it shows kids that parents are engaged in trying to better the world, and it fosters resilience by channeling energy toward tangible action.</p><p>Mary DeMocker, author of <a href="https://www.marydemocker.com/" target="_blank"><em>The Parents' Guide to Climate Revolution</em></a>, agrees. As the mother of two young adults, DeMocker spent more than two decades raising kids with climate change in mind, and she believes in empowering young people to create solutions.</p><p>"Anything that gives kids a sense of agency is important," she said. "Maybe they help put together the family's emergency plan or evacuation kit. For older kids, it might mean writing letters to Congress."</p><p>DeMocker's book contains 100 short, action-oriented chapters with ideas on greener lifestyles, getting kids outdoors, and promoting solutions to the climate crisis. She is attentive to the science of climate change and the <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/09/1046972" target="_blank">urgent need</a> for a swift transition to clean energy. That drives her belief that children growing up today must feel empowered to create change. In addition to strong support networks, time outdoors, and positive thinking habits, she said, empowerment comes from solid foundations in both civics and climate science.</p><p>"I encourage parents to push for climate literacy in schools," she said. "Climate change is the biggest thing that's going to affect their children's future. Kids need to know the science and causes but also the solutions. And it needs to be taught free from the constraints of political interests."</p><p>DeMocker said young people should not be told "what to think about climate, but how to think about it." She believes teaching kids to think critically about the issue, including in geopolitical terms, helps them avoid despair and instead empowers them to create change. A grounding in civics and democracy then informs kids how change can occur.</p>
Foster Compassion<p>Compassion is also a theme in DeMocker's work. She said it's an important emotional response for parents to exercise while listening to a child's fears about climate change, which may include concerns about wildlife, natural disasters, or the well-being of friends, family, and even pets.</p><p>In Alaska, Wiese also sees the importance of compassion. She said parents foster compassion when they provide a safe emotional place for kids to express their feelings and where feelings are respected. For younger children, she also sees value in <a href="https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/raising-includers-5-tips-to-help-your-kids-be-kind-and-compassionate?gclid=Cj0KCQiApaXxBRDNARIsAGFdaB9Dp67VmyJHY5kke0ptpDapbSc767cVtYMrs-05ZI0DtfKRAKVgRw8aArYCEALw_wcB#disqus_thread" target="_blank">compassion-based play</a>.</p><p>Exercising compassion models behaviors young people will need in the future, too, as they emerge as adults into a world undergoing significant physical and societal change. Global experts <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/06/1041261" target="_blank">predict</a> low- and middle-income people — and especially children — will continue feeling the brunt of weather extremes, food shortages, and other climate-related events. Tomorrow's adults will need to know the value of compassion to promote responses that alleviate suffering, foster social justice, and decarbonize the economy. That provides a check against intolerance, nationalism, and other negative reactions that can compound suffering and civil unrest. Practicing compassion also carries mental health <a href="https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/the-compassionate-mind" target="_blank">benefits</a> that can help tomorrow's adults weather the climate disruption they will experience.</p><p>Like climate change itself, the prospect of raising children on a warming planet is daunting. When it becomes overwhelming, Wiese said, parents should focus on what they can control: Practice self-care. Provide kids with safety and support. Teach resilience and compassion. And model planet-healthy choices that orient children away from anxiety and toward solutions.</p><p><em>Tim Lydon has worked on public lands issues for many years and is a founding member of the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation. His writing has appeared in Hakai Magazine, The Revelator, The Hill, Terrain.org, and elsewhere.</em></p>
- 5 Answers for Kids Concerned About Climate Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Ways to Teach Children About Climate Change - EcoWatch ›
- Your Guide to Talking With Kids of All Ages About Climate Change ... ›
So now what?
1. What are you eating?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5NTU1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5NDgwOTg2OH0.KvKhPzOMrPJ1ogvdFrUMt-JkeJ-llUPErCNpVmwXgg8/img.jpg?width=980" id="4ad70" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6a0e901e37f6800bdd9115b3dfe63889" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A plant-based diet is healthy, ethical and an effective carbon-cutting adjustment for a household. Anna Pelzer / Unsplash<p><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/food/" rel="noopener noreferrer">Food</a> production accounts for <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2019/08/4.-SPM_Approved_Microsite_FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">23 percent of human greenhouse-gas emissions</a>. Experts say that confronting climate change will ultimately require <a href="http://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-02409-7" target="_blank">adjusting our diets</a>. Eating lower on the food chain — or eliminating meat and dairy entirely — is one of <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/veganism-environmental-impact-planet-reduced-plant-based-diet-humans-study-a8378631.html" target="_blank">the most effective</a> carbon-cutting changes you can make in your household.</p><p>While there are many compelling reasons to eat locally, what you eat is more important than where it comes from. One <a href="https://doi.org/10.1021/es702969f" target="_blank">influential U.S. study</a> showed that transportation represents just 11 percent of the life-cycle emissions of household food consumption (a life-cycle analysis considers all aspects of production, transportation, use and disposal), compared to 83 percent for production. So if the thought of eliminating meat altogether is just not fathomable, consider buying products that use lower-emissions production processes such as <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/meat-save-planet-regenerative-farming_l_5d261f7ae4b0583e482b0192" target="_blank">regenerative grazing</a>.</p><p>Discuss what dietary changes your household can make and how they contribute to the climate-change solution. Children learn best when adults link cause with effect: if we collectively choose to eat less meat, we can reduce the carbon <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/emissions">emissions</a> that contribute to climate change.</p>
2. What transportation do you use?<p>Globally, transportation accounts for <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter8.pdf" target="_blank">23 percent of human emissions</a>. The numbers are higher in <a href="http://prairieclimatecentre.ca/2018/03/where-do-canadas-greenhouse-gas-emissions-come-from/" target="_blank">Canada (28 percent)</a> and the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions" target="_blank">U.S. (29 percent)</a>, where fuel-hungry trucks and SUVs <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/best-selling-new-cars-trucks-suvs-2019-2019-8" target="_blank">dominate the market</a>.</p><p>Start by biking, carpooling and taking public transportation as often as possible. <a href="https://www.arts.ubc.ca/social-science-vs-climate-change-wynes/" target="_blank">Live car-free</a> if you can. If driving is a must, focus on <a href="https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/energy-efficiency-transportation/fuel-consumption-guide/21002" target="_blank">fuel consumption</a>. Choose smaller, best-in-class vehicles and pay attention to distance travelled.</p><p>Air transportation is a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2019/jul/19/carbon-calculator-how-taking-one-flight-emits-as-much-as-many-people-do-in-a-year" target="_blank">major contributor to carbon emissions</a>. One round-trip transatlantic flight — Denver to Paris, for example — produces the equivalent of <a href="https://www.offsetters.ca/education/calculators/flight-emissions-calculator" target="_blank">2.54 tonnes of carbon dioxide</a> per passenger. That's half the emissions of a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator" target="_blank">car driven for a year</a>.</p><p>When planning your next family vacation, carefully consider the need for flights. Vacation locally or opt for a shorter flight.</p>
3. How does your home contribute?<p>Households use energy for heating, cooling, lighting and appliances. Energy consumption is not the same as carbon emissions — the relationship depends on how your home's <a href="https://www.cer-rec.gc.ca/nrg/ntgrtd/mrkt/nrgsstmprfls/on-eng.html" target="_blank">electricity</a> and <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-526-s/2013002/t002-eng.htm" target="_blank">heat</a> are generated — but it's still a great target.</p><p>Heating, both space and water, makes up <a href="https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-data/data-analysis/energy-data-analysis/energy-facts/energy-and-greenhouse-gas-emissions-ghgs/20063" target="_blank">80 percent of residential energy consumption</a> in Canada. Actions that conserve household heat can lower emissions.</p><p>These can range from small things like washing clothes in <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/case-washing-clothes-cold-water-180955459/" target="_blank">cold water</a> to big steps like moving to a smaller, more energy-efficient home. Retrofits aimed at increasing energy efficiency are also worth considering, especially those matched with local <a href="https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/energy-efficiency-homes/financial-incentive-province/4947" target="_blank">financial incentives</a>. A <a href="https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/energuide-canada/energuide-energy-efficiency-home-evaluations/20552" target="_blank">home-energy audit</a> will help you choose the most effective targets.</p>
4. What do you throw out?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5NTU0Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTg3MjE1M30.uygtv1CFZewjkDxEu-8QurZ4hQYRjUsUsE3fWs-PJLo/img.jpg?width=980" id="bd33e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8ab97d62621df2d932a2922740fdcf0e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
North Americans produce more waste per capita than anyone else on the planet. Most of it ends up in landfills. Justin Ritchie / Flickr CC BY<p>On a per-capita basis, North Americans produce the <a href="http://datatopics.worldbank.org/what-a-waste/" target="_blank">highest average amount</a> of waste in the world. <a href="https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/37-ways-to-reduce-trash" target="_blank">Much can be done</a> to curb your family's disposable habits.</p><p>Everyone knows the mantra: reduce, re-use, recycle. However, <a href="https://thewalrus.ca/why-recycling-doesnt-work/" target="_blank">the recycling industry is complex</a> and much of what we put in recycling bins <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/21/us-plastic-recycling-landfills" target="_blank">ends up in landfills</a>.</p><p>Priortizing the reduce and re-use parts of the mantra will have a lasting impact on the environment. To reduce, plan carefully and buy only what you need. Buying less stuff not only saves money, it <a href="https://www.withouthotair.com/c15/page_88.shtml" target="_blank">reduces emissions</a> from packaging, transportation and production.</p><p>Families should also emphasize re-using goods. Take steps to re-purpose or exchange items, both inside the home and within your community. There are <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=low+waste+home" target="_blank">many creative ideas</a> out there.</p>
5. Who can you influence?<p>As parents, we recognize that making the time for change can be difficult. But changes can begin with small steps, like educating yourself on the <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/" target="_blank">evidence, causes and effects of climate change</a>. Children are inherently curious and want to learn too. Make sure that they learn from <a href="https://publichealthonline.gwu.edu/blog/sources-for-climate-news" target="_blank">credible sources</a>.</p><p>Children are constant observers of adults' choices. Many kids will notice when an adult makes an effort to reduce <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/waste">waste </a>and carbon emissions. To emphasize these changes further, explain what your actions and choices mean for the environment.</p><p>You can also show children how individuals can mobilize and inspire change. The world has just witnessed a <a href="https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/" target="_blank">16-year-old</a> launch a global climate movement that is inspiring millions.</p>
Change is the product of individual actions.<p>Some claim individual actions <a href="https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-empty-gestures-trivialize-the-very-serious-challenge-of-climate-change" target="_blank">won't make a difference</a> or that domestic changes don't matter if <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-five-corrupt-pillars-of-climate-change-denial-122893" target="_blank">others are not following suit</a>. In addition to being incredibly <a href="https://www.bcmj.org/cohp/unseen-impacts-climate-change-mental-health" target="_blank">disheartening</a>, such views ignore the fact that our current crisis is the product of billions of individual decisions. Household actions lead to changes in collective behavior and are an essential part of social movements.</p><p>A more compelling argument is that the focus belongs on <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/10/opinion/how-to-help-climate-change.html" target="_blank">altering the systems</a> (economic and political) that pose barriers to personal changes. We agree! But it's not a zero-sum game and transformations must happen on both fronts.</p><p>There is reason for hope. Family-based changes can shape the environmental landscape for future generations. We already have much of the <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2019/05/29/renewable-energy-costs-tumble/#2747ae89e8ce" target="_blank">technology</a> and <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/solutions/adaptation-mitigation/" target="_blank">know-how</a> required to transition towards a more sustainable society.</p><p>We just need to get started. And it can start with our families.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Marty Swanbrow Becker
When college students seek help for a mental health issue on campus — something they are doing more often — the place they usually go is the college counseling center.
What’s Behind the Problem<p>Student mental health distress has escalated to high levels nationally. The <a href="https://www.acha.org/documents/ncha/NCHA-II_SPRING_2019_US_REFERENCE_GROUP_EXECUTIVE_SUMMARY.pdf" target="_blank">American College Health Association found</a> in 2019 that over the past year, 87% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do, 66% felt overwhelming anxiety, 56% felt things were hopeless and 13% seriously considered suicide. Contributing factors include distressing and traumatic circumstances during college, such as assaults, in addition to academic <a href="https://www.aucccd.org/assets/documents/Survey/2018%20aucccd%20survey-public-revised.pdf" target="_blank">performance demands</a>.</p><p>The college experience is not the only factor, however. Students are also coming to college with preexisting mental health challenges. For instance, over 80% of students who think about suicide during college had <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/87568225.2016.1140978" target="_blank">first thought about suicide before college</a>.</p><p>Some college campuses may add counseling staff to try to meet the increased demand for counseling centers, but not all campuses can afford to do this. Even if they do, it still might not be enough. Students need alternate ways beyond college counseling centers to address their mental health needs.</p><p>By being more proactive and equipping students to deal with mental health issues before they become too large to manage, fewer students will need crisis services — and those that need them will be able to get them sooner — because more students will have the tools to work through their problems earlier on their own.</p><p>To improve the overall health of their population of students, here are four areas where I think colleges should focus.</p>
1. Empower Students<p>Colleges must help students assess their strengths and overall resilience. By empowering students with increased self-knowledge, they can more adeptly identify problems early and access supportive resources. Campuses could help motivate and encourage students to monitor their progress through creating an online portal where students can access tools, such as those promoting skill development in the areas of mindfulness, time management and career reflection. There's such an online portal — known as the <a href="https://strong.fsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/About-project.pdf" target="_blank">Student Resilience Project</a> — at the university where I teach, and results are <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07448481.2019.1679818" target="_blank">promising</a>.</p>
2. Provide Stress-Management Resources<p>Colleges and universities should create processes and tools for students to improve their ability to manage stress. For example, the campus could create a decision tree that helps students identify when and where to reach out to get help with their specific concerns. A web-based portal can tell students where to locate campus-based support services, such as coaches, advisers and counselors, or peer-to-peer education and support and skill-building groups. For an example of a program designed to increase social support in high schools and one that could work for colleges, see the <a href="https://sourcesofstrength.org/" target="_blank">Sources of Strength</a> program.</p>
3. Take Preventive Measures<p>Research shows that <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10686752" target="_blank">helping many people lower their risk</a> improves the benefit for the larger population more than focusing on those at the highest risk.</p><p>This suggests that colleges should look at the factors that are contributing to stress — such as substance use, discrimination, assaults and the pressure around figuring out one's major and career — and then work to reduce their influence. Promoting resources for early intervention in these areas can help students cope with stress and build time management skills.</p>
4. Launch Wellness Campaigns<p>Colleges should create a wellness campaign. Students, faculty and staff should be trained in how to work together to improve the mental health of everyone on campus, including identifying others in distress, intervening with them and referring them to help. The campus should advertise their vision and initiatives to get the message out to all members of the community. These wellness campaigns are aspirational at the moment, but I am currently working with several colleges to make these campaigns a reality.</p><p>When colleges shift their focus to population health and prevention, in my view it should lead to an improvement in the health and well-being of students and free up counseling centers to treat the students most in need of mental health support.</p>
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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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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By John Light
Editor's note: Watch the oral arguments live beginning at 1 p.m. EST above.
Three judges in San Francisco potentially have the power to decide how the U.S. government deals with climate change. Monday, 21 young Americans will make the case that President Trump has endangered their future by aiding and abetting the dirty industries responsible for the global crisis. And they will argue that they can hold him legally accountable.
There has been a significant development in the constitutional climate change lawsuit so far successfully prosecuted by 21 youth plaintiffs: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to hear oral argument over whether the Trump administration can evade trial currently set for Feb. 5, 2018. Oral arguments will be heard before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Dec. 11 and can be watched on a live stream beginning at 10 a.m. PST.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin issued an order Thursday in the climate lawsuit brought by 21 youth, Juliana v. United States, setting a trial date for Feb. 5, 2018 before U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene, Oregon.