As a parent or a grandparent, one can’t help but be concerned about the world awaiting our children. We’ve all given some head space to the impact of climate change and it’s a topic our children can’t escape — on the news, in our schools and in community discussions. If I were a child, I’d be numb with fright.
Talking to children about climate change is a challenge. The stakes and anxiety are high. If we do nothing, we could see a death sentence for hundreds of millions of people. Our kids receive that message on an almost daily basis. However, as they grow up, it’s likely our children will find new and creative ways to handle the changing world. It’s important that we give them a sense of hope. So, how do we talk to children about climate change without making it seem like we’re in a horror movie?
I recently spoke with Roger Butts and Marta Fioriti on this subject. Roger is a transitional minister for pastoral care at All Souls Church and Marta, his wife, is pastor at Black Forest Community Church. They have a house full of children and have both spent career time working in children’s ministry as well as addressing the spiritual implications of climate change. They offered these suggestions...
Roger Butts and Marta Fioriti: First, we anticipate the questions children will have. They might ask things like “I don’t understand why the Gulf Coast keeps on flooding Southern states? The pictures on the news are scary. Will the world be safe when I grow up?” Then we get honest with ourselves and our children. Like COVID-19, climate change will change the way we live. We can offer alternative narratives and lifestyles for our young ones and model intentionality toward the Earth as an act of faith.
Next, point out others who are modeling a new path. Greta Thunberg called world leaders to address this problem assertively. She models standing up for a new way — even if it’s just picking up trash whenever you see it as our 14-year-old does.
And we can create a world that says to children: You are important. They need to know we’re in this together. In his new book Fall in Love, Have Children, Stay Put, Save the Planet, Be Happy, Frank Schaeffer argues that we must set up a life where we faithfully and truthfully encounter each other well before a crisis happens. Then it will be safe to talk about any problematic matter with respect and truth.
Finally, we empower our kids. The Earth’s future is in all of our hands. Explain to your young children that the world has a virus, like a bad cold, curable with intentionality and rest. The good news is our Earth can get better with intentionality.
• As a family, cut down on carbon emissions by deciding “No air conditioner this year!”
• Instead of new gifts, pick a good used book.
• Together decide on a meatless menu one week and discuss its health for the family and the Earth.
At a recent faith leader climate rally, Rev. Logan Bennett reminded us that the goal of all religions is life abundant, which she says includes “a deep lungful of clean, nourishing air.” Like climate change, it is not too late to have conversations at home that better ourselves and our Earth.
Ever wanted straightforward answers to hard questions? Don’t we all?!
In Good Faith answers questions about spirituality, religion and the things that matter to us as human beings. Dr. Ahriana Platten is a speaker, author and business consultant who holds clergy credentials in several faith traditions. Send your questions to Ahriana@Ahriana.com.