3 things to tell your children about climate change

For decades now, we have been deluding ourselves, pretending that everything is alright with the way we are handling the evolving environment. We’ve even managed to convince our subconscious minds, “that’s just the way things are.”

Problem is, humans have a tendency to overthink, so we tell ourselves that it is okay that the climate is getting warmer. In fact, it could be a good thing! Spring comes faster, the growing season is longer, more time at the beach, less snow to shovel in winter… In essence, we make the best of a bad situation to see what we want.

We grasp for the benefits of climate change to justify its existence.

Yet, we’ve been caught telling a lie. An extraordinary lie that we cannot talk our way out of. I’m not even sure who should be apologizing to whom, though some people, some companies and some industries need to own up to a portion of the damage. While it never feels good to admit to a mistake (especially when we are caught plastic-handed in the act) expressing regret does help to show that we are capable of positive change.

We are all guilty of making unsustainable choices – mostly out of convenience, secondly out of cost, thirdly out of fashion. As a consuming society, the moment our wants greatly outnumbered our needs, we unleashed a plastic monster that currently terrorizes the Earth in all shapes, sizes and forms. It’s not only hiding under your child’s bed, it is also hiding in the deepest, darkest forests, upon the highest mountain tops and leagues under the sea. We are the cause that has created a massive tidal effect.

What should we be telling our children about climate change?

Give them the scary facts about extinction and global warming.

We are creating history as we speak and children should be informed about the good, and the bad. Now, you might say, “My child isn’t ready to hear, or understand, such negative things about what is going on in the world.” I beg to differ. There are age-appropriate ways to talk about everything under the sun. As you tell them exciting stories of your childhood: how you caught fireflies by the jarful on warm summer evenings, how you stayed up till midnight watching the stars as you gathered by the heat of the campfire, how you won a toad catching competition and you were only peed on twice – ask them where they might have those same experiences today.

Talk to children about how insect numbers are plummeting and why that matters, speak about how the craze for palm oil is ruining the orangutans’ habitat.

Ask them how they feel that whales are dying with flip flops, golf balls and plastic straws in their stomachs. Be prepared to answer plenty of questions about what is happening around the world, at the same time come up with actionable ways that you can make sustainable changes as a family.

Tell your children/grandchildren, “I’m sorry.”

Apologize sincerely for the environmental mess we currently find ourselves in, and search for hope amidst the garbage and despair. We haven’t ruined it all and there is so much we can improve upon! Once we have admitted to our misguided intentions, it leaves room for us to grow, to thrive. Now is the time to encourage love for the Earth and all of its forms, from the largest predators to the smallest of insects. Start to foster sustainability in children by spending meaningful time in nature, together. Explore the screen-free wonders of a digital detox weekend and explore the beauty of our natural world. Get involved in caring for the environment and feel its importance.

Grab them by the hand, look them in the eyes and say “Let’s fix this together, I need your help.”

It takes teamwork to tackle a large mess. You’ll quickly find this out if you take a #trashtag challenge with your kids or a school group. Choose your favorite space to play, be it a park or a beach, and pick up every piece of litter you can find. It is completely rewarding and it shows them that we are all in this together, even if we weren’t the ones to make the mess, we can take the responsibility to clean it up. Enable your children to make eco-conscious decisions about the future, by allowing them to contribute their thoughts and ideas about going plastic-free and/or zero-waste.

Children are capable of understanding much more than we give them credit for. Start involving them in important discussions about the environment and let them lead the way into a sustainable future.

What burning questions have your children asked about climate change, how do you answer them?