How to explain climate change to children

By Carlos Roa

Living in the midst of the climate crisis is our reality today. This means it is important to introduce our children to the issue, so that they know how to handle this situation and do better than previous generations have done.

“Just as with other difficult topics like sex and drugs, approach climate change in a developmentally sensitive way,” says Wendy Greenspun, a clinical psychologist in New York who focuses on climate issues.

Doing so establishes a baseline for children to assimilate more complex information as they grow older and prepare to exercise their own voice on behalf of their generation’s future.

A good starting point can be to ask them if they have heard of climate change and what they know about it. It can be a good conversation to broaden their knowledge and to address early misconceptions that come from unreliable sources.

Love for nature

Another great time to start is when children show an interest in animals. We must reinforce their natural love for other living beings, teach them that caring for them is our duty and tell them that it is not only about domestic species, but about all living beings in nature, as well as their habitat.

The changing seasons are a good time to cultivate a love of nature. Enjoying the colors of autumn, or the rebirth of spring, are occasions to increase respect and admiration for the planet.

Learning by example

Examples are always helpful in explaining something to children. On a very hot day, you can say, “Can you imagine how you would feel if we were even hotter?” You can also show them the dry grasses in summer and ask them to imagine what would happen if that happened to all the plants.

In addition, you can explain to them how vegetation helps combat climate change by simply going outside and sitting under the shade of a tree.

Rewards and celebrations

It is a good idea to reward them for remembering to turn off the light when they leave the room, or for taking care of the plants. You can also make it a celebratory event to install solar panels in the house or reinforce the use of bicycles, which is also an enjoyable activity.

In addition, do not underestimate children’s ability to understand their reality. They will probably bring up new examples themselves during a conversation on the subject, which shows that they are more alert and sensitive than we imagine.

Never approach the issue from a pessimistic perspective. We need to leave our own concerns out of the conversation. Children perceive the world as a good and safe place to live, we need to reassure them that it is, but that we need to take care of it to keep it that way.

It is important to focus on actions and solutions. It is good to reassure them that, if we take the right actions, the future will be better.




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