We parents are in a tough spot when it comes to telling our kids the story of climate change. Should we tell the whole truth? A partial truth? Should we be abstract or specific with our language? Finally, how outwardly obsessed and directive should we be over climate change at home?
There are many excellent approaches out there. We need them all. Yet, the approach I favor goes like this:
Keep my sense of humor engaged and invite an open, ongoing dialog with the kids. Since I am in the midst of making changes myself, the light touch helps me deal with inconsistencies. Above all, I try to keep an upbeat tone. I believe a "We can do it" tone will build the most eco-intelligence for the next generation. So, there is no despair allowed when you talk to your kids about climate change. Here are a few ideas to help you put it into practice:
- Weave climate change and shifting habitats into the discussion of many topics you visit: Places you love, oceans of the world, stars, food, farms, animals, the environment, money, style.
- Remind yourself that change starts at home, then show the kids "out loud" examples where you don't recycle correctly, where your choices were less than perfect. Often, they catch my "Duhs!" and give me a good ribbing. "Mom, you should do this, not that." I let them teach me.
- Look at cars in the neighborhood. Who is driving a big rig that eats up gasoline? Who has a cool compact car? "What kind of car would you like to drive?" I'll ask. Yeah, we get sidetracked looking at all the brands, but generally, kids get that a big car is no longer a sign of a person's affluence or success. In fact, it is often a sign of a person's unconsciousness.
- Look at food packaging. There is now an entire aisle in my supermarket devoted to snack size this and snack size that. It appears that portion control was the driving factor in that product design. So, portion control brought an abundance of packaging to deal with. Is that a step forward? Why not eat an apple instead of those "whistling cheeze dots?"
- Finally, tell a story that creates a backdrop for the fear and the anxiety you have for the planet. I love to tell stories about changing habitats. I bring the dilemma of scarcity into the hearts and minds of animals my kids love to conjure: the polar bears, exotic birds, penguins, etc. Stories tell us where we've been, where we are now, and where we'd like to go.