Children and the environment: Easing fears without rejecting real concerns

Children and the environment: Easing fears without rejecting real concerns

by Carly Williams
Stripes Europe

The environment has received prominent coverage in recent years, as more people become aware of the human impact on ecosystems, forests, the climate and sea life. Children too, are regularly exposed to reports on climate protests in cities around the world, and disasters such as the wildfires destroying wide habitats in Australia. It is important for children to be well-informed about environmental issues by objective sources, but at the same time, it is critical that their possible feelings of helplessness or anxiety about the environment are addressed by parents and teachers as needed.

One thing that parents can do is to help their child to develop a balanced perspective. Media outlets know that bad news sells, and often the more shocking the news the better. Explain this to your child and help them to improve their critical thinking skills by identifying the source of the information, as well as the purpose of the piece. Is there contradictory evidence? Are the findings backed by research? Encourage them to ask questions and search for truth, even if that truth is as unfortunate as it first seemed.

Parents can also help their children to seek out the underreported good news that actually takes place every day. Although not strictly focused on the environment, on for example, there are stories that show individuals, communities, scientists, and governments making efforts to help improve our world. Articles like these can counterbalance the barrage of bad news, giving children hope for small changes now, and bigger ones in the future.

Becoming more environmentally aware and modeling constructive behaviors can also help to alleviate children’s hopelessness, as it shows that you too care about the future of the world and want to do your part to make it a better place. Incorporating recycling into your daily routine and choosing to walk or cycle short journeys are easy ways to show your child that you are being mindful of the impact of your choices. Explain to them the reasoning behind these choices and help them to see that while one person’s choice is but a drop in the ocean when thousands or millions of people do the same, it becomes a small part of a large and meaningful change.

Taking a family bike ride can help teach your kids about helping the environment. 

Encourage your child to partake in real activities that will make a difference of some sort. If you live by a beach, then take them to pick up trash; if you have access to a suitable area, then plant a tree, or alternatively, plant flowers that attract honeybees; or, if your child has a favorite animal, then consider sponsoring one or learning other ways to help preserve their habitat. These are ways that will help to give your child purpose and make them feel as if they are contributing to tangible solutions.

Ultimately, even the most resilient children will find certain aspects of modern life frightening, and environmental crises are no exception. Remember to be receptive to discussing any worries your child may have, and be prepared to take the time to help them to deal with this anxiety in a constructive manner. Finding solutions together will help them to gain what control they have over the situation, and form a more positive mindset for what can be done for the future. It is important to never dismiss their fears and you should always seek professional help, should you feel their mental health is becoming a concern.



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