How to talk to children about global warming
Some discussions with children cannot be avoided. The one on global warming is one of them. Whether they ask questions or not, it is a phenomenon they will inevitably face and it is therefore better, as parents, to anticipate.
The future of the planet is already a concern for adults, who are more and more numerous and suffering from eco-anxiety. The smallest are not spared, quite the contrary. Choosing the right words to explain the situation can help to channel their stress.
According to a survey conducted for the American NGO Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post, more than seven in ten teenagers and young adults believe that global warming will harm their generation. There is no doubt that this state of mind should spread to the youngest.
But how do we approach this subject? For 44% of the people interviewed in a Yougov survey for Le HuffPost, children must be given hope. But, while 26% believe that it is necessary to remain neutral and factual, 24% stress that they must be prepared for the worst. Only 1% say that they should not be told about it.
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Telling the truth
For child psychiatrist Christine Barois, contacted by The HuffPost, it is essential to explain to children what global warming is. “It’s part of their environment, you always have to tell the truth to the children. As before in times of war, we have to tell them that things are worrying and that we have to be careful,” she explains.
According to this specialist, nothing is worse for a child than feeling betrayed. For child psychiatrist Coline Stordeur, interviewed by Télérama, this is all the more important if we want to prevent them from discovering global warming on their own, which can be presented catastrophically in some media, with employment martial vocabulary.” “It can add stress and anguish to hear ‘imminent threat or red alert’ and lead some children to the idea that they are going to experience the end of the world,” she says.
The need to take the lead on this issue is clear, and it remains to be seen how to approach it without causing too much concern for children. “It’s a source of anxiety for a lot of them because they do things at school and with their parents, the children realize that it’s beyond them,” says Gwenaelle Boulet, editor-in-chief of Astrapi magazine, interviewed by It’s Franceinfo.
But channelling these anxieties is not easy according to Christine Barois, for a simple and good reason: “We ourselves are in uncertainty. You have to tell them honestly that we don’t really know what’s going to happen,” she says.
Putting forward solutions
If possible, try to highlight solutions, everyday behaviors that allow the scale and that of the home to reduce the carbon footprint, according to Lise Van Susteren, an American psychiatrist interviewed by The New York Times. She even says that you should not hesitate to encourage your children to participate in volunteer activities in your neighbourhood or to join an association, for example.
“Trying to reassure them by raising their awareness without being in denial, telling them that we will do our part and be reasonable as much as possible” is one of the ways of approaching this discussion, for Christine Barois.
Even Coline Stordeur, who believes that after having “made them aware of the problem”, it is necessary to “help them understand that there are possible solutions and to have concrete ideas of small things that children can do to improve the situation by being actors, for example sorting waste, cycling… it can be very reassuring.”
In this sense, parental behaviour is paramount. They can serve as an example and give hope to younger people: “Engaging can give children optimism (…) It is a question of adults accompanying them in this anxious climate and helping them to find in them enough optimism to be able to build properly, without developing anxiety disorders in this regard,” continues the specialist.