How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change: Part 2

Used with Permission: The Mothers Project Logo

Used with Permission: The Mothers Project Logo

Anna Fahey and Sightline created a wonderful advice post, from wise Climate Mamas and Papas around the country. Recently, we posted Anna’s advice and introduction to this much longer original post. Anna raised important and thoughtful questions including: What should we say, and how and when do we talk to our children about climate change? We are thrilled to share with you, more sage advice from climate leaders.

Do check out the original post on Sightline, where you will find more in depth details, advice and information. In the meantime, take a few minutes and think about the wise advice below. Does it resonate with you? It does for all of us at ClimateMama!

Kandi Mossett: I talk to children with as much encouragement as possible and let them know that anything is possible if they put their mind to it. I let them know that when they try new things, there is never a guarantee they will always succeed, but that they should at least try because if they don’t then they know for sure they will fail, and that’s no good either….I encourage them to think from the heart about what is right and wrong.

Kandi is lead organizer with the Extreme Energy & Just Transition Campaign of the Indigenous Environmental Network. She has a three-year-old daughter.

Sarah Myhre: So, this is my advice for parents: feel your feelings about this problem. Feel your feelings so that you can get to the other side, so that you can grieve and burn down the parts of you that need to go in order to rise through this and be stronger. Hold yourself to the high bar of growing up emotionally and intellectually—yeah, it hurts. Yeah, it’s not what we would prefer to be happening, but this is what it looks like to be an adult in 2016. These problems are not going to go away. They will only become more critical. We are all going to have to do this together.

Sarah is a postdoctoral scholar with the Future of Ice Initiative and the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington. She has a three-year-old son.

Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons: We want our kids to have a finely tuned sense of the world around them, to be critical about the conditions we live in, and to carefully notice and interpret the world around them. This extends to people and the environment. We make explicit the relationship between the two, and we do our best to connect the dots so our children understand the root causes of what we see on the surface…We discuss the foods we eat, where they come from, who grows and harvests and transports it. We are curious about the changes to weather patterns and the migration of people. Climate change, like everything we care about, starts in our home.

Rev Joseph is director of APANO, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. He is the father of three.

Donna Morton: My son asked me hard questions and gave me new insights all along the way. Kids kick our butts. I have enormous faith in the millennial generation. I think that we need to look more astutely at millennials. They have integrity and high standards, and they want to do things differently than we did them. Rather than dismiss them because they are not doing what we did or doing it how we did, we need to ask ourselves why it is they are acting the way they do. They can teach us. And they want us to be elders. They are disappointed when they see us living in our privilege, ignoring climate change, not doing decolonization work….These are the critical questions of our times. It’s time to ask ourselves: how do we become the elders they need us to become? How do we support them? How are we going to heal our relationships with them before we die?

Donna is the co-founder and CEO of Change Finance—creating deep values ETFs for Wall Street that are fossil- and harm-free. She is a lifelong social entrepreneur, an Ashoka, Unreasonable, and Ogunte fellow. Her son is 19.

Jana Gastellum: My first conversation about climate change happened after my daughter visited a fire station on a field trip. She became fascinated with fire. When she saw a picture of a globe with flames on it (a thank-you card to me from a school child), she immediately asked about it. We talked about how Mommy works to stop climate change, which is caused by pollution from cars and burning stuff for power plants. She could understand that we don’t want the world to get too hot because it will harm animals and how we grow food and get our water. Like most of us, kids are natural visual learners, and having an image open a conversation was a great aid.

Jana is the Climate Program Director of Oregon Environmental Council. Her daughters are three and one years old.

Kim Powe: My daughter is only now turning five. She’s not ready for the scary, planetary disaster stuff. But we can teach our kids about how they are members of a community, about our collective responsibility to each other, our responsibility for other people, for our neighbors, for our community. It’s about raising good people. Our broader culture, the messages kids get, is mostly individualistic, capitalistic, consumerist. But when you talk to them about it and when you model the ways of doing things for your child as a conscientious citizen of the earth, you raise a conscientious earthling!

Kim is a policy expert with a focus on sustainability and racial justice. She is principal at 3E Integrity. Her daughter is four years old (almost five).

Mara Gross: My four-year-old doesn’t understand systemic issues yet, so we talk in terms of our personal actions and responsibility—things like turning off lights we’re not using so we don’t waste energy, biking to school because it’s healthy and fun and doesn’t make the air dirty, and making sure our camp fire is out to protect the forest from fires. I’ve also started to lay the foundation for a future conversation about climate change. We have talked about our solar panels and how we get some of our energy from the sun, and after seeing an exhibit about space travel at our local science museum, we talked about the atmosphere and how the air keeps the temperature on our planet not too hot or too cold.

Mara is the Oregon communications manager of Climate Solutions. She has a four-year-old daughter

Alex C. Gagnon: The world is this incredibly beautiful, amazing, complex place. Sharing that beauty, that complexity, sharing that wonder fits very naturally with parenting. You can give kids a foundation that makes them feel connected, makes them critical thinkers and makes them think the world is a place of wonder. Given the host of challenges they will face in their lives, this foundation is more important to me than training them to fix one particular problem.

Alex is an assistant professor of oceanography at the University of Washington. He has a two-year-old daughter and a newborn

Michael Foster: I don’t try to hide things from the kids I talk to. I am very straightforward about what we are facing together. Even the big, scary stuff. It’s kind of like talking about the monster under the bed: Once you talk about the monster under the bed, now you’re not so scared….But we need to be inspired and hopeful, too. I often ask children to imagine kids learning from a history book, a thousand years in the future. We imagine reading about what average people did—kids, parents, grandparents—to end the carbon era. The idea is that when we work together—personally, socially, politically—we can’t be stopped because we’re on the right side of history.

Michael is a climate activist, Seattle mental health counselor, and father of 12-year-old and 14-year-old daughters. He has given a climate change slideshow to more than 10,000 local students and is involved in the children’s’ suit for generational climate justice, Foster v. Ecology.

Eric de Place: I’m leaving it to his science teachers to instruct him in atmospheric carbon concentrations and adaptation strategies for rising seas. My hunch is that if we want our kids to do as we do—that is, to fight for a stable climate—we do better when we meet them on their own terrain—in the world of imagination, rather than in science and politics. As one author said, “Fairy tales are more than true—not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

Eric is policy director at Sightline Institute. His son is seven.

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