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Climate change is likely to make your child’s life experience much different than what you’ve known. So even though it might feel like a daunting subject to bring up with your kids, it may also be one of the most important.
The first — and most critical — step is to stay positive. Remind your child that they have a role to play as a nature lover and a climate leader, whether it’s in their backyard, their school, their community or beyond.
Second, don’t feel daunted by the science. To help, we created this virtual children’s book which explains the basics of climate science, as well as actions we can all take.
Third, remember that your approach will largely depend on your child’s age and interests.
For young children, one way to start is by inspiring a love of the natural world. Over time, you can try to connect what they are noticing, whether it’s migrating birds or the leaves changing color, with concepts like seasons and weather.
By elementary school, kids may have already heard the phrase “climate change,” so it can be important that they don’t start associating it with fear. Explain the basic facts of climate change and the world’s finite resources. (Again, our children’s book might come in handy.)
Empower your kids with actions they can take on their own, whether it’s turning off the lights when they leave a room, or home composting, or taking care of a tree in the backyard. Science museums, zoos, and aquariums are great places to explore together, since many now connect their exhibitions with the wider effects of climate change and biodiversity loss in a child-friendly way.
For kids who do receive formal instruction on climate change, it will most likely happen in middle school. At home, you might watch for opportunities to connect it with phenomena they are noticing in the community, whether it’s heat waves or changes in local flora or fauna.
For teenagers, it might help to familiarize them with videos or stories of young people who are working on solutions. Reassure them that there are still paths forward, and take the opportunity to help them understand about misinformation and the value of reliable sources of information about climate change, but also about the world in general.
Finally, let experts do your homework for you. Here are some kid- and teenager-friendly resources that have been vetted by climate scientists and science educators.
· CLEAN is a database of resources supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
· Subject to Climate offers news articles and lesson plans written for fifth graders and up.
· And of course The New York Times’s Learning Network curates kid-friendly material that’s designed for teachers but may also be helpful for parents.
— Winston Choi-Schagrin
A Climate Change Guide for Kids