How Should We Explain Climate Change to Children?


 When discussing climate change with children, we have compiled a list of points to consider. 

Dear Educators;

Recently, children of all ages are frequently exposed to news and information about the climate crisis. As a result, children may experience climate anxiety. Even if you try to protect them from this anxiety or help them cope with this process more healthily, they will inevitably encounter various information in different ways. However, as adults, we need to be more prepared and conscious about this issue, approach children's questions with awareness, set an example for them with our own behavior, and enable them to approach this process critically. At the same time, we should motivate them to protect nature, listen to their concerns, talk to them about what they can do to reduce them, and ensure they do not lose hope.

Each child's developmental process and temperament are unique. Whatever the issue, making the right decisions and choosing the most effective methods depends on knowing the child well. Trusting parents and teachers in this regard, the following helpful notes on climate change will make it easier for you.

What should we pay attention to in general terms?

Before explaining the causes and consequences of climate change and answering children's questions, teach them about nature, how ecosystems work and how everything in nature is interconnected, interdependent, and interdependent. Let children recognize and wonder about the natural processes that make life possible.

Do not leave children alone with feelings of worry, anxiety, and hopelessness when talking to them about climate change or when they are exposed to random information or images. With the support of their teachers or parents, have a conversation with children about why they feel this way. Carefully choose the visuals you will use to draw children's attention. You can shape children's relationship with nature through these images. Keep in mind that at a very early age, pictures that create phobia and despair after the news of major crises that concern the world and disasters caused by the climate crisis can desensitize children after a while and create anxiety in them. This situation may later turn them into adults who are distant from nature and ignore nature-related issues. Pay attention to the extremity of the information and images that children are exposed to.

Get to know children well. Scared, reactive, docile, introverted, calm... Choose your information and discourse according to their personality traits. For example, it would not be useful to talk about negative scenarios with an introverted child who may experience anxiety. Be aware of the developmental stage children are in and take into account their emotional and social developmental characteristics. When children have to deal with difficult emotions, act in line with the characteristics of their age stage.

For 0-8 Years 
What should we do?

The primary goal should be to get children to spend time in nature, play, wonder, observe and appreciate nature. Explain concepts to them in an easier way and create opportunities for children to observe and enjoy living things. Plant seeds together, water flowers, feed street animals and prepare healthy food for birds. Observing the weather, seasons and climate can be a good foundation for children's understanding of the climate crisis and can raise their awareness. Ask them "What happens in nature in different seasons? How do the trees change? What are birds, insects, butterflies, and bees doing?".

Children may know new information about climate change from the media, school, or friends, or they and their families may have been directly exposed to one of the consequences of the climate crisis, or the place where they live may have been damaged. Approach children according to their situation and talk about what they sense. Tell children that it is common to feel scared, anxious, and tragic after such events. Examine what experts have to say in extreme cases, get support from them and choose the language that is appropriate for the child's age. Children can express their feelings and thoughts in different ways in the face of negative events. At this point, remind them that they can draw pictures, play games or create stories if they wish. Give children responsibilities and tasks in their daily lives. 

Such as turning off lights when not needed, not consuming water, watering flowers, and recycling... Such attitudes will improve children's attitudes toward climate protection and help reduce their anxiety about the climate crisis.

What should we not do?

Avoid fear, phobia, and worrying scenarios and images. Do not confront them with questions such as "Will there be a flood?", "What will we do if there is a flood?", "Will the forests be depleted?", "Will something happen to our house?". Give them a sense of security. Do not project your fears and negative thoughts about climate change onto children. On the contrary, tell them what people are doing to take care of nature, and make them listen and see what you are doing. In early childhood, children want to feel safe. Never forget this.

For ages 9 and up
Find the right resources.

Children can understand the causes and consequences of the climate crisis and the role, impact, and importance of human behavior in this process. To do this, take care to choose easy information, the right visuals, and constructive language. Try to explain scientific information in an age-appropriate way that children can comprehend and connect them with the right sources. Encourage them to be curious and ask questions. Support them in distinguishing information pollution and following the right sources. Be sensitive in the images you share with children. Do not use images of burnt animals, forests, overturned houses, etc. to explain to them the consequences of the climate crisis, forest fires, or floods. Explain the issue step by step in a cause-and-effect relationship with scientific information.

Work together.

Remember that they are exposed to a lot of information outside of you. So ask what children already know, think or feel, but do not pressure them to talk. Especially do not leave children who have been exposed to a natural disaster caused by climate change or who have experienced/witnessed a disaster alone with the question "When will this happen again?", "What will I do if this happens?", "What if it happens to me?". In such cases, be sure to share the solutions, the precautions to be taken and the actions to be taken, and talk to the children about what can be done to find solutions and get their opinions. Raise children's hopes. Meet with the children's teachers/parents and discuss with them. Create a common language with teachers/parents to explain to children with scientific information and focus on solutions, and to teach them how to be critical about what they hear from the media and how to access the right sources.

Start from the basics and go deeper.

Teach the climate with an ecosystem focus. Explain that everything is interconnected, what an ecosystem is, and the relationship between the living and non-living things in an ecosystem. Make children empathize with living things. Think together about the questions "What would bees, birds, bears, trees, and people do if the seasons change more rapidly and differently than assumed?" Parents who are not experts or educators can easily discuss the causes and consequences of the climate crisis using a scientific resource and try to find answers together. 

  • "What is this thing we call the atmosphere?",
  • "What does it do?",
  • "What happens when there is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?",
  • "Why is there more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there should be?",
  • "What is a fossil fuel?",
  • "How can fossil fuel use be reduced?",
  • "What does the climate crisis mean?",
  • "What is a carbon footprint? How can it be measured?
  • What can we do to reduce our carbon footprint?" 

You can examine, discuss and know the answers to these questions together. Deepen your discussions. You can discuss everything from sustainable growth, what can be done in our homes and schools to ensure sustainable growth, to volcanic eruptions, and if you don't know, you can find ways to know together. But remember, children, do not have to learn everything about the climate crisis just like adults.

Focus on solutions rather than problems.

Introduce children to important role models, issues, and projects working in the field of nature conservation. Motivate them. Tell them and show them that together they can make a difference. Share with the children relevant climate initiatives, news, and studies you come across. Tell children that there is work to be done by individual people as well as by governments, local authorities, and civil society, and give examples of what is being done and can be done.

Be a model.

  • Be part of positive change.
  • Together with the children, focus on what you can do in your household and in your daily life to reduce fossil fuel use.
  • Be attentive to your own behavior and do not act inconsistently.
  • Use cloth bags, earthenware, and pottery.
  • Save energy.
  • Reduce your waste.
  • Eliminate plastic and disposable items from your daily life.

Give responsibility.

Support children to develop and implement projects with their peers or friends. Explain how important it is for everyone to make small individual efforts in their daily lives to care for nature and live a carbon-free life, and support children to adopt new habits by making joint decisions.


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