How do we raise environmentally consciousness children without instilling anxiety?
How do we teach children that the world is good in the midst of a climate crisis?
Spend time outside
The more time children spend communing with the natural world, the more they’ll grow to value it and learn to respect it, nurturing the innate connection to the natural world they are all born with. Even a simple daily park outing will be a huge help! Helped by their natural inquisitiveness and unique ground-level perspective, toddlers will notice the subtle beauty of changing seasons and the millions of other species who share this land. I urge you to find the wildest possible place nearby and let them explore with as few boundaries as possible. Let them get dirty, roll around, pick up bugs…
Model environmentally conscious habits
Hopefully you’re already doing a lot to minimize your carbon footprint, but let the children be the motivation to shift some habits if you need to. In addition to biking, using cloth bags, composting, etc. make sure you’re also engaging in the politics of environmentalism. Call your representatives, march in the streets, make subversive art. Right now, we need to live with a fair amount of privilege to have the time/money/education/opportunity to change our habits. Without change in our policies, the responsibility to change will remain on the level of privileged individuals, the climate destruction of big companies will continue to be disowned by them. You don’t need to bring your children with you, but simply doing these things will make you embody the values you want them to carry with them through their own lives.
Consumerism is a huge cause of climate change. By making and growing your own things you’ll help your children see the work and resources that go into creating the objects we use every day. You don’t have to do everything, but give them a taste of it. If you can’t plant a garden, grow herbs in your window and go visit a working farm. If you can’t sew and knit your own clothes, mend them yourself and find a crafty friend they can watch. If you can’t build your own furniture, then fix things, hang paintings, assemble your own IKEA, and take them to see a sawmill or wood shop! Also shameless plug, send them to a Waldorf school! Practical arts are a huge part of the curriculum for just these reasons.
Save big talk for when they can process it
Melting icebergs are so far outside of a young child’s consciousness, your talking about them will either go over their heads or create a lot of anxiety. Phrase things simply and center them around the good people are doing and actions you all can take to help. Instead of going off about all the people using plastic straws and littering and how turtles are getting these things stuck in their heads and dying, say “let’s help the birds in the park by picking these up so they don’t think they’re food!” Simple, close to home, and centered around a helpful action.