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5 Important Ways Families Can Address Climate Change

Written by Anya Kamenetz

Anya is an author and journalist, and writes about climate and parenting at The Golden Hour

More than four out of five people agree children will be essential in fighting climate change and that we must give them the knowledge and skills needed to build a sustainable world. Yet, only half of parents say they have talked about climate change with their children. Unfortunately, as children get into their tween and teen years, they hear scary messages about the environment on the news that contribute to widespread climate anxiety. In a 2022 survey of Gen Z Americans, 75% said they had experienced anxiety, depression, or feelings of being overwhelmed as a result of consuming news about climate change.

That’s why it’s so important to build the basics of climate literacy and positive action when our kids are still young. We are giving our children what they need for a more hopeful tomorrow.

Here are some ways to talk to children about climate change.

2-4 year olds

At this age, lay the groundwork with simple messages: care for self, care for the environment, and care for other living creatures.

Care for self

"Wear a hat and sunblock and drink your water. It is very hot today!”

Care for the environment

“Turn off the water while we brush our teeth.”

Care for living creatures

“Ouch! Please let the leaves stay on that tree so it can make its food.”

“Let’s carry the spider carefully outside so it can eat the mosquitoes!”

5-7 year olds

Children can start to conceptualize planetary systems, especially when they can see the effects around them. And right away, they need to hear about solutions.

“There is a very big fire in the forest in Canada, and the smoke is traveling down to us. We will wear a mask today. You can see the smoke on this map. Forest fires are getting bigger because the world is getting hotter. Lots of firefighters are working hard to stop the fire.”

“The pollution from cars, airplanes, and even gas stoves, travels into the air and wraps around the earth like a blanket. It is making the planet hotter. When we ride our bikes instead of driving in the car, there is less pollution, and the air stays cleaner.”

“Put your leftover food in the compost bucket. It can turn into new dirt instead of going to the dump.”

As you start acknowledging climate change, it’s also important to take positive action as a family. Here are some meaningful and fun activities families can do together, no matter where you live.

Write a letter, draw a picture, or leave a voicemail together for an elected official expressing your support for meaningful clean energy and environmental protection. Groups like Ecomadres and Mothers Out Front can give you more ideas.

Explore composting food. This is a process where food scraps are turned into nutrient-rich soil. You can put scraps in the freezer and take them to a local dropoff point or compost in your backyard if space allows.

Organize a bike-to-school day with fellow parents. Lots of communities are setting up “bike buses” to make commuting easy, fun, and carbon-free.

Go grocery shopping or to the farmer’s market! Learn about foods that are lower-carbon choices. Look together for something locally grown or something that’s not packaged in plastic.

Go on a home energy diet. For just one day, try to hang laundry to dry, turn your A/C to a higher temperature or your heat lower, use only LED lights, and take a shorter, cooler shower instead of a bath.

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