Time in nature to affirm their connection to the Earth, time with supportive, engaged adults to affirm the power of community, and time spent learning age-appropriate truths about the climate crisis will be critical to raise kids who are still hopeful enough to fight for a greener world.
“This summer was a serious dose of reality,” for her children, writes CBC columnist Amy Bell, whose Parental Guidance column appears regularly on CBC Radio One’s The Early Edition.
With extreme heat and encroaching wildfires coming in the midst of a pandemic, there were “a lot of questions and a lot of worry.”
For other parents who are wondering how to raise environmentally conscious children without breaking their minds (and hearts), “it needs to start with the basics,” Bell writes. “Kids, especially younger ones, need to feel a connection to their surroundings and a reason to fight for it.”
Bell also urges parents to make sure their children never feel alone in this fight: “Just as they feel connected to the Earth, they also need to feel that bond with their community to lift them up and support their efforts.”
As an example, she cites the efforts of Iona Bonamis, who set up a neighborhood zero-waste station in her yard and launched a new business that offers sustainable body care products along with home and workplace “greenproofing” services.
Psychiatrist Christine Korol, director of the Vancouver Anxiety Centre, told Bell that while involvement in environmental causes can be a very positive thing, younger children might need to be shielded from some truths.
“The little guys, the kindergartners and Grade 1s, it’s probably too much for them to hear things that are too scary,” she said.
So media on the subject should be limited, and everything explained in context. Korol also recommended that parents make sure their kids get a regular dose of nature.
Bell concludes with a salute to the youth she sees as the “fierce and determined people who have shown more resilience and mindfulness in their short lives than many adults ever have.”
“What we face collectively on this planet is terrifying—but I believe it’s possible to turn things around and let hope in, and that’s in large part due to the children we are raising,” she writes. So, knowledge and hope-filled support are the first orders of business. After that, “please get out of their way because we’ve made a big enough mess and they truly might have the answers we need.”