Climate Corner: Talking to kids about climate change

Jul 24, 2021

Linda Eve Seth

“Never shelter children from the world.” — Roald Dahl


Whether you think our changing climate is a man-made situation or just part of a natural cycle, there is no denying that there are increasing numbers of record-breaking high temperatures, low temperatures, hurricanes, droughts, floods, tornadoes, wild fires …

Whether you get your news and information from the TV, a newspaper, the radio, or from an online source (or likely all of the above) the effects of a warming planet and changing climate patterns are in the news daily.

If the young people in your home are paying any attention at all, they may be struggling to deal with the constant barrage of anxiety-provoking news about the environment. Your kids are hearing warnings and prophecies regarding climate change in the news, on TV, online, in science classrooms, maybe even on the school bus. It’s all around them.

The realities of the world today are tough for parents to grapple with. But it’s even more tough for kids. Our youth deserve to be hopeful about their future.

If adults (parents/teachers) ignore the changing environment, they short change the children in their orbits, but teaching kids about such a complex and unsettling issue can be daunting for any adult.

Parents who are nervous about bringing up climate change with their child might prefer to wait for a teacher to raise the subject first. But parents have a distinct advantage over educators because the former know their children’s interests, their emotional intelligence, and how they’ll be affected by news that’s difficult to hear.

There are plenty of ways to talk about what’s happening to the Earth in age-appropriate ways without frightening a child. The key is to lay a foundation for children to appreciate and be curious about the natural world. The first step parents can take is to help their children develop an appreciation of the natural world before trying to explain climate change. That could mean watching a nature documentary together, visiting a wildlife center, growing a garden, or introducing a child to natural habitats like a creek, beach, or forest. Such experiences give kids a sense of why taking care of the earth is important, which ultimately helps them grasp the stakes of climate change — and care about preventing it.

But understanding the underlying science — let alone its many impacts on the effects of climate change on oceans, animals, crops, land, and the air we breathe — is admittedly complicated. So, for a simple second step, consider sharing books about the environment with your kids; LEARN TOGETHER.

The following books give children the facts — sometimes straight up, sometimes wrapped within the story-telling — to help them learn about the rapidly warming, melting, flooding, parching world that their generation is urgently tasked with protecting.

Here are a few titles to get you started:

* Ages 9+ “Rising Seas” by Keltie Thomas

* Ages 10+ “When the Sky Breaks” by Simon Winchester

* Ages 6-10 “A Place For” by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Higgins Bond

* Ages 8-12 “The Global Warming Express” by Marina Weber, illus. J. Whysner

* Ages 7+ “Look at the Weather” by Britta Teckentrup

* Ages 5-6 “Great Polar Bear” by Carolyn Lesser

* Ages 3-7 “The Digger and the Flower” by Joseph Kuefler

There are many more books on the subject. Ask your local librarian or the science teacher at school to recommend some that might suit your child’s age, interests, and intellect.

For more specific suggestions about how to talk to your kids about climate change, watch this column next month for a follow-up piece with a few more detailed ideas.

Until then, be kind to your Mother Earth.


Linda Eve Seth, SLP, M.Ed., is a mother, grandmother, concerned citizen and member of MOVCA.