As the effects of climate change become more visible and severe, it’s increasingly important for us to start having conversations about it with our children. But talking to kids about such a daunting topic can be challenging.
Climate science can be complex, and many parents might not have had the time to absorb the rich information in numerous reports. On top of talking to our children, many parents also feel the need to contribute to a safer future for their children.
How then, can parents living in Singapore educate ourselves and our children about both the impact of climate change on our island nation and the steps we can take to reduce our impact on the environment? This Earth Day month, you can take these first steps:
How to Engage the Family on the Climate Crisis
1. Acknowledge your own emotions first
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Talking about the climate crisis can be scary even for the adults. After all, the climate crisis impacts human lives in very real ways.
To be strong role models for our children, it is tempting to go into facts and figures and ignore our own emotions.
“It can’t simply be facts and data. When we only present the science, we leave out a big part of what it means to be human—our life beliefs, values, and behaviours”, according to Leslie Davenport, a therapist and author of All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal with Climate Change.
The first step is looking inward at our own emotions first, considering the emotions our children might experience, and how we relate to the other lives that live on this same planet as us.
2. Take an age-appropriate approach
Climate change could be too complex for kids at a younger age to comprehend. For pre-schoolers, we can focus on experiences with nature first.
“We immersed them in nature, we immersed them in stories about nature, we composted, and we did a lot of caring for the natural world. So they just grew up immersed in concepts of an ethic of care and a life of joy and wonder in the natural world, and our responsibility for it,” Mary DeMocker, an environmental activist and author of The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution.
For primary and middle school children, you can probe them on what they know from the school programs that integrate sustainability. Ask your children open-ended questions to hear how they have connected to the topic on a personal, emotional and intellectual level.
For older children and teenagers, it is important to check in on their feelings. When you sense that your kid is overwhelmed by the avalanche of climate news and realisations, toggle off if necessary. Help them self-regulate through distressing news.
Acknowledge the emotions and affirm the many successful collective actions that people are taking in Singapore and across the globe, from individual action to systemic changes to give them a reason to be hopeful.
3. Learn together
From board games to easy apps, the wide variety of environmentally-themed games and resources that cater to different age groups will catapult your family into a sustainable lifestyle in no time. Many of them can be played in groups of 2 or more, so it makes for perfect family bonding time too.
For parents who are hesitant about your level of understanding of green habits, understand that your role is to be a beacon of hope and pillar of support for your children rather than an encyclopedia or Wikipedia.
When your kid asks you a question you can’t answer immediately, fret not. Consider this response: “That’s interesting, shall we spend some time to find out more information and learn together?”
BBC, Netflix and National Geographic have shows that do a splendid job at explaining nature climate change in easy-to-understand terms. Watch it together as a family bonding activity and use them as a basis for the conversation.
4. Join other young parents who are taking climate action
While walking this journey with your family, it can also be helpful to hear how others are navigating this difficult challenge.
A community of supportive parents can help us become more confident in how we confront our own emotions, share conversation starters on this difficult topic and how we meaningfully take action.
Non-profit organisation Climate Conversations is bringing together a growing number of concerned parents to discuss concerns about raising our children amidst a climate crisis. Find out more about what they do here.