How to explain climate change to children

A man teaches teenagers in a classroom.

Explaining complex issues is difficult. However, it gets even tougher when you have to explain them to children. Depending on their age and each kid’s own character you have to use different methods and words to bring the information across. Explaining climate change so that people can understand it is already difficult with adults. Telling children what is happening to our world isn’t any easier. However, here are some tips on how to get the information across smoothly.

A woman is playing with wood blocks with two children.
We teach our children many things. Talking to them about climate change should be one of them. Photo: Marisa Howenstine I Unsplash

Explain difficult issues to kids

Before you worry about how to explain a complex issue like climate change to children, it’s important to first understand how to communicate information to kids. There are several things you should keep in mind that decide on what kind of language to use or which information is the right one to talk about.

The age and developmental stage of the child should be used as a guide on how to talk to them. For example, young kids absorb information differently to older children. If you tell them that the Teeth Fairy collects their fallen out teeth, they will believe you. However, a teenager would probably raise both eyebrows at you. Talk to the child and try to find out what they already know about an issue like climate change. Then, add additional information to expand their knowledge. Use simple terms to explain difficult information.

Talking about difficult topics includes talking about emotions and feelings. Don’t hide behind a mask. It’s important that the child, but also you yourself address your feelings. You also don’t have to be a complete expert on climate change to talk to children about it. Know what you want to tell them is accurate, but don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. Climate change is a difficult topic – most people don’t understand it 100 per cent. Encouraging children to search for more information and even possible solutions is important. This gives them the option to actively do something.

How to explain climate change to children

One way of explaining climate change to children could be to say: Climate change is the process of our planet heating up. This means that living on our wonderful earth will become  more difficult because our living conditions will change with heavier rainfall in some areas, and more frequent natural disasters and droughts.

Earth’s climate has always changed, however what is happening now is unusual.  Earth’s average temperature has been increasing much more quickly than scientists would expect over the past 150 years. This temperature warming majorly started since the invention of the steam engine and super scale production. Due to the rise in temperatures globally now, glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising.

Children playing ball in an alley.
Children love playing in nature. However, due to climate change, nature is changing. Photo: Robert Collins I Unsplash

Does the rise in temperature mean more ice cream in summer? If only! Unfortunately, climate change has very serious consequences. These include extreme and unpredictable weather like flooding, wildfires, or hurricanes. Some areas on earth will get wetter, others will get drier. Many animals and humans might not be able to adapt to the changing climate.

Make changes with the child together

Make sure that you don’t scare children with telling them only about the doom and gloom surrounding the climate change debate. Tell them about inspiring people and organisations who are doing important work for our planet!

Small changes can make a difference too! Talk to children and decide together what kind of impact you can make: you could walk short distances instead of using the car. Recycle your garbage and reuse your clothes and go second hand shopping if you need new items. Switch from animal products to plant based food to reduce your carbon footprint.

Want a more visual display of this article and information? Go check out our What On Earth Instagram posts in our feed or click on ‘Explainers’ to find on overview of our What On Earth pieces.

Eco-Spotlight is a digital publication that focuses on different aspects of climate change solutions: projects and ideas focused on sustainable development, social entrepreneurship, environmental businesses, eco-friendly practices, and similar green initiatives. Through our solution-focused interviews and articles, we want to bring good news to the forefront and remind the world – without hope, there is no future. We also syndicate our content with White Print, India’s first English lifestyle magazine in Braille.

Hello there! I'm Julia, co-founder of Eco-Spotlight and a freelance journalist. With Eco-Spotlight, I want to focus on sharing stories of inspirational people and positive impact, as well as learn more about the environment, and sustainability.

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