Stress and Climate Change

By Kim Burgess, Ph.D.
Pediatric Psychology Center
In a recent national survey, two-thirds of Americans report that they worry about climate change, yet two-thirds report that they ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ talk about it with family & friends.
I’ve recently been asked whether or how we talk about it with children.  YES, we should have conversations with our kids as it’s happening all around them with global weather changes, protests, and mass media coverage including distressing graphic images of our cities and famous landmarks in the future appearing partially submerged. It’s important to let kids express their thoughts and feelings about climate change, but adults should not use terms like crisis, disaster, or catastrophe as this language can be alarming to them.  Children often want to feel like they are part of the solution. Help them come up with age-appropriate ways to develop eco-friendly habits  (such as recycling, using refillable water bottles, limiting waste), and help them identify action items they can do with their family members, schools, and communities.
In conversations with my own daughter who greatly cares about climate change, the current state of our environment, and how we can help change course, she found the resources below to be useful in providing realistic action items for her everyday life.
A couple of educational videos you can have your children watch or watch with them:

You can watch movies that encourage a love of nature and help kids begin to wrap their heads around climate change. A few examples are listed below:

  • A Beautiful Planet
  • The Lorax
  • Wall-E
  • Happy Feet
  • Planet Earth

Click here for more suggestions on how families can take action!
It’s very empowering for kids to feel like they’re part of the solution rather than feeling like they have no control, which can increase anxiety and helplessness. Using the resources above gives a lead-in for your conversations.
Hope comes from action!