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How to Talk to Kids About Climate Change

Amira Azoulay, 14 year old Climate Kid, shares Four Pathways to Talk to Kids About Climate Change

The ideas and suggestions written below are provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health- and nutrition related activity. 

As parents, we’re on a constant path to strike a balance. We want to protect our kids from all the harm and negativity in the world. At the same time, we want to teach and prepare them for the future, so they know they’ve got choices — like choosing kindness, taking action, and helping others — as they pick their own path.

Climate change can be one of those tricky issues to talk about. Because of climate change, we’re constantly bombarded by negative imagery and stories, and frankly it can be overwhelming. But our children are the ones who will really be dealing with the impacts of climate change — it’s the reality for this generation and generations to come.

To help parents approach the topic with kids in a way that feels truthful, actionable, and nurtured with a solid dose of hope, we teamed up with Climate Kids for kid-led expert advice. Climate Kids has educated over 250,000 youth on climate change through art, science, and storytelling from Costa Rica to the Arctic. Founding Climate Kid, 14 year old Amira Azoulay, is sharing her climate change knowledge below.

Lesson on climate change for elementary students

Amira, at the age of seven, and mother Amber Pairis, founder of Climate Kids, together lead a lesson on climate change for students in San Diego, California.

Fundamentals and Facts on Climate Change

A good first step is finding the right language to explain what climate change is to your kids. Before you dive into the conversation, we recommend brushing up on the core of the issue, starting with fundamentals and facts.

What Is Climate Change and What Causes It?

Climate change is caused by the increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that act like a heat-trapping blanket around the Earth. The more greenhouse gases, the thicker the blanket and the warmer Earth gets. Human activities have caused an increase in greenhouse gases, which causes the systems that regulate heat and climate (such as oceans, soils, and forests) to become unbalanced, making it feel like the planet has a fever. As we continue to use non-renewable energy sources for our activities, we contribute to the increase of greenhouse gases and the Earth’s fever.

Building climate hope is more important than ever because it is the creativity, innovation, and solutions that our children will bring forward that will help shape our future.

Facts About Climate Change

  • The Earth’s climate is changing and has been at an increasingly rapid rate for the past 200 years.
  • Climate change is caused by humans releasing fossil fuels and other greenhouse gases into the environment.
  • Over time, these molecules build up and act as a thick blanket that traps heat around the Earth.
  • Climate change is affecting Earth’s natural balance and is causing more extreme weather events around the world.

Conversation, Community, Hope, and Impact

4 Pathways to Talk to Kids About Climate Change

1. Learn to cultivate truthful conversations paired with simple, small-scale solutions.

Many sources we get our information from focus primarily on doom and gloom and much less on all the things we can do to help. Real talk: Being truthful with your kids doesn’t mean you aren’t protecting them. Far from that.

    At Climate Kids, we believe these conversations are an important way to show your respect for and trust in your kids. And also, it shows how much you believe in them.

    • Foster conversations with facts paired with small solutions within the scope of your family’s abilities.
      • Examples:
        • If your kids are learning about endangered species and extinctions, you can talk about supporting nature in your own backyard, windowsill, or patio.
        • If the topic is the amount of food waste that ends up in the landfill, consider having a small compost to reuse your leftovers. In turn, you will get soil for your garden.

    2. Nourish a community of supportive individuals.

    Building a strong support system of like-minded people who believe in and support your children is an essential part of maintaining climate hope. Think family, friends, teachers, and more. This tight-knit community can help your child pair learning with fun, hands-on activities to make enjoyable memories and change the world for the better.

    Check out these community-minded activities for learning about climate change:

    • A school club or project that focuses on learning about the environment:
      • Form or participate in a nature or eco club
      • Create a school garden
      • Go on a field trip to a nature reserve
    • Activities with family and friends to help the community:
      • Clean up a beach, community, or local park
      • Plant native species in your area
      • Learn more about climate change and share what you learn

    3. Find hope and ideas for the present by looking to the past.

    We’re doing the work. Collectively. Change-making humans have been at it for decades, collaborating to solve large-scale problems.

    We can think back to the hole in the ozone layer in the late twentieth century, the banning of certain pesticides harmful to birds and insects, and realize that when we come together, we can make lots of amazing things happen.

    To reinforce the idea that we can overcome challenges by working together, you and your children can:

    • Talk to a family member or elder about their experiences of making change.
    • Read inspirational stories of people overcoming adversity. Some good book examples can be found on the Climate Kids Book Club website.
    • Find role models by reading articles about climate change by other youth.

    4. Look to areas where you have traction to make changes in your community, home, school, and everyday life.

    Small changes add up to big impact, and there’s no better time to start than right now. So get involved!

    • Volunteer at a local organization that works in your community. There are often local nonprofits focused on issues like bicycle-friendly roads and regional land preservation. And those organizations are packed full of helpers who welcome newcomers who are curious and who want to make a difference.
    • Teach your children to look to areas where they have traction to make small-scale changes.
      • Do your kids enjoy gardening? If so, support them in creating a local garden!
      • Do they love animals and insects and have a penchant for magnifying glasses and binoculars? Help them teach classmates about the native species of your area!
      • Do they find joy in helping in the kitchen or on trips to the grocery store? Learn about shopping seasonally and locally! Check out this fun Climate Kids cookbook for recipes and more.
      • Make small sustainable changes, like walking or riding your bike instead of driving somewhere, or shopping at a thrift store before buying new clothing.
    • Remind them that they aren’t responsible for everything. Every little change matters. We all have a part to play and it can add up to a big impact.
    • There are so many ways for your kids to get involved and make small-scale changes. Brainstorm big ideas together using this Youth Climate Challenge packet.

    Learn more about what you can do at Climate Kids’ “Climate 101”.

    About Climate Kids

    Climate Kids, a program of the Climate Science Alliance, educates youth on climate change through science, art, and storytelling. The Climate Science Allianceworks to safeguard natural and human communities in the face of a changing climate by increasing awareness of climate change impacts, promoting solutions, and facilitating actions.

    The Climate Science Alliance and Climate Kids teams acknowledge the Indigenous peoples on whose traditional territory we work. We honour the continued presence and resilience of Indigenous communities and nations today, and thank those we work with for your friendship and your good will in our efforts to collaborate.