• Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

How parents can help children with ecoanxiety

Nov 12, 2021

It’s only natural to be feeling anxious about recent climate change headlines.

Ecoanxiety is rife at the moment, particularly following COP26 – where world leaders delved into the various actions urgently needed to save the planet.

But what about when kids share their worries about the environment?

It’s perfectly normal for little ones to have questions and concerns – especially considering younger generations will be most affected by these huge environmental issues.

So how can parents help their children with ecoanxiety?

Experts have shared some important things to keep in mind…

Acknowledge their anxieties are valid

Brett Wigdortz, an education expert and CEO of early years initiative tiney, says the first step is to acknowledge how they are feeling.

He tells Metro.co.uk: ‘As much as witnessing a child’s anxiety can be difficult as a parent or carer, it’s important not to downplay their feelings or pretend there’s nothing to worry about.

‘Climate anxiety can be exacerbated when the threat you perceive to be real isn’t being acknowledged or acted upon by others. 

‘Validate how they’re feeling by talking to them about the specific areas they are most concerned about.

‘If they are starting to catastrophise (e.g. “I’m worried all the animals are going to disappear”) help them find more accurate information while explaining in precise language some of the changes they’re likely to experience – such as hotter summers and more rainfall.’

Simply put, it’s crucial not to brush their anxieties under the carpet. Instead engage with the topic in an age-appropriate way. 

Give them practical opportunities to make a difference

Climate change is a huge thing for children to get their heads around – and sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming. 

Brett stresses that a good way to approach it with kids is to think about how lots of little things can make a big difference – including our own actions. 

‘Focus on practical, positive actions they can get involved with. This could be being in charge of the recycling bins in the house and checking everyone is sorting things correctly,’ he adds.

‘It could mean going through their clothes and toys every few months and donating unwanted items to charity shops or listing them on apps such as YoungPlanet – so things don’t end up in landfill.

‘Or making sure that the family always brings reusable water bottles and cups when out and about. 

‘Every time you use them, you can remind your children that they’ve helped keep a bottle or cup out of landfill and protected natural resources in doing so.’

Monitor your own behaviour

It’s good to be aware that kids copy behaviour from adults, so if you’re feeling incredibly anxious, a child might pick on on this.

‘Children watch and absorb the behaviours exhibited by the adults around them,’ explains Brett.

‘Alternatively, if your child sees you being wasteful or not recycling properly, for example, that could exacerbate their feelings of powerlessness and frustration.

‘Trying to be eco-conscious in your own actions and congratulating children when they do the same will help turn climate change-related actions into positive, rewarding moments.’

Help them connect with nature

‘Not only is spending time in nature a great way to alleviate stress and anxiety, it is also a powerful tool that can help children understand their place on the planet and their connection to it,’ says Brett.

Parents can encourage children to get involved with pro-active outdoor activities to help them connect with the environment.

This could be as simple as families starting to grow their own vegetables and parents helping kids understand the importance of locally-grown food and self-sufficiency.

Brett adds: ‘At this time of year you could try planting garlic, onions or potatoes.

‘In the spring you could try tomatoes, runner beans and fresh herbs.

‘Teach them the value of growing their own food and how they’re reducing their carbon footprint.’

This is likely to reassure them in some capacity and help them understand the environment a little more.

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