The threats of climate change can be upsetting to children. Here’s how to ease their fears with empowering solutions.
- Acknowledge Anxiety. For kids who express concern about climate change and the natural world, acknowledge their anxiety and distress. Help your child appreciate that this is a manifestation of their love and caring, and that these are normal ways of responding.
- Validate Feelings. Be cautious against unintentionally invalidating your child’s feelings. In a misplaced attempt to help their child, some parents might say, ‘Oh, there’s nothing to worry about.” Part of climate anxiety is this sense that it’s not fully acknowledged by society, so it can make children feel worse if they perceive a huge problem and nobody seems to notice it.
- Talk about the solutions. Discussing the positive things that people are doing to address climate change can be helpful for kids. Normalize that this is a very complicated problem but that millions of people around the world are working to solve it. These are things that build optimism and hope and a sense of collective spirit.
- Take Action. Helping kids find things that they can do to improve the situation is a great way to lower their anxiety. This can include anything from planting a garden or composting to engagement with their school or local government.
- Emotion Regulation. Parents can use climate anxiety as an opportunity to teach children emotional regulation techniques that can help them learn to manage fear and worry. That may include breathing slowly, relaxing the muscles, doing mindfulness practices, or focusing on a task like gardening for a few minutes to help them settle down.
- Talk to Your Child’s Doctor. If the anxiety starts interfering with a child’s daily functioning, schoolwork, or relationships, parents should talk to a doctor—that might be a sign of more severe anxiety.