How to talk with kids about climate change

Share story

The Kids Climate March joins up with the March for Science.
The Kids Climate March joins up with the March for Science, April 22, 2017, in Saint Paul, Minn. The two groups marched together to the State Capitol to raise awareness about climate change and demand government action.
Matthew Hintz for MPR News

It seems like every day, another report with scary consequences makes headlines. "2019 capped world’s hottest decade in recorded history." "Australia fires will be 'normal' in warmer world." "Oceans are warming at the same rate as if five Hiroshima bombs were dropped in every second."

Climate change is a big, important topic - and chances are good, the kids in your life are asking questions. But when the topic paralyzes even many adults, how do we talk to kids in a way that is real, but not terrifying?

Tuesday on MPR News with Kerri Miller, guest host and MPR reporter Catharine Richert spoke with two experts about how to talk with the kids in your life about a warming planet in a way that's empowering, not overwhelming.

Validate their feelings

Let them talk about their anxiety. Don’t brush it off, even if it seems silly to you. Children want to know that their caregivers offer a safe place for them to share their feelings.

Remind them that others feel this way

It helps to know they aren’t alone. Many people – including many adults – are concerned about the planet. We can work together to solve this crisis.

Explain in age-appropriate terms

Young children don’t need much more than a few sentences – always coupled with reassurance that the grown-ups are already working toward a solution. For slightly older kids, look for videos online that will satisfy their growing curiosity.

Encourage them to get involved

For young kids, it might be as simple as going outside. Give them a love of nature. For older kids, it might be getting involved in an environmental student group at school. Let them dictate how active they want to be.

Guests:

  • Susan Clayton, professor of psychology and environmental studies at The College of Wooster in Ohio

  • Mary DeMocker, author of the book “The Parents' Guide to Climate Revolution: 100 Ways to Build a Fossil-Free Future, Raise Empowered Kids, and Still Get a Good Night's Sleep"

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

Subscribe to the MPR News with Kerri Miller podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts , Spotify or RSS.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.