How to talk with kids about climate change
It's important to help young people understand climate change and to support them as they cope with emotions. The following are some basic principles to follow and resources for parents, guardians, and teachers.
- Listen - start off by asking what they know and what concerns them about climate change. Kids will often surprise you by how much they know and how much they have already thought about the issue.
- Break the silence - climate disruption is not a distant problem; it is here and already being felt in the form of extreme weather events. Share the basic facts about climate change in an age appropriate way.
- Focus on feelings - the science is important, but equally important is to discuss how climate change makes your young person feel. Affirm their feelings.
- Get outdoors - you protect what you love and you love what you have a relationship with. Being in nature's beauty can itself be restorative for you and your young person.
- Keep it local and make it hopeful - climate change is a big and complicated problem. Discuss what is beautiful about your part of the world and what things we can do as individuals, families, and communities to protect what we love. Giving opportunities for agency is vital to maintaining and developing a hopeful attitude.
- Ensure it is not one-and-done - look for regular opportunities to discuss climate change. As your young person grows older, make the discussions increasingly age appropriate. Addressing climate change is a multi-generational challenge that will require decades of effort.
Resources for talking with kids about climate change
- NASA: Climate Kids
- Yale Center for Environmental Communication: "How to talk with kids about climate change"
- National Public Radio: "How To Talk To Kids About Climate Change"
- UW Institute for Science & Math Education: "Navigating the Political Dimensions of Climate Change Teaching and Learning"
- Spokane City Council Sustainability Action Subcommittee: "Youth and the Environment"
Activities for teaching about the greenhouse effect
- Greenhouse gas game: an energetic, physical game in which participants simulate the greenhouse effect, becoming either heat from the sun or greenhouse gases.
- The Greenhouse: a game about the greenhouse gases and our atmosphere
- The carbon dioxide game: The Carbon Dioxide Game is a fun, active way to explain the greenhouse effect and human contribution to global climate change. The game can be played with groups of up to 30 students age 10 and older.
- NASA Climate Kids:
Kids and discussing climate change in the Inland Northwest
The Gonzaga Climate Center is featured in this video from local ABC News affiliate KXLY on "Ways to have conversations about climate change with your kids"