How can you raise your children with hope in times of climate crisis?

With her newborn baby on her arm, 41-year-old Masha Ponginar of Auden looked at NOS . News. “There was an element of a natural disaster and suddenly I realized the scale of the climate problem.” It’s time to live more sustainably, she thought, and to teach her sons (now 10, 8 and 5) to do the same. “I started reducing our plastic waste five years ago: a bar of soap instead of liquid soap bottles and I went to the market and a greengrocer with reusable bags. Along the way I explained to the older boys why we did it.” It was satisfying: the plastic waste container remained empty longer and longer. But when you’re in the book hidden effect (2017) by Babbitt Porcelain I read that reducing plastic waste makes little difference, I “felt annoyed for a while.”

Parenting in the climate crisis, how do you do it? In a recent publication, the Netherlands Youth Institute (NJi) wrote that three-quarters of children and young people are concerned about climate change and that parents face a difficult task: they want to discuss the topic, but not so intensely that children become afraid or depressed about it…their future. According to NJi, children can be emotionally affected by the images they see (floods and polar bears on one last piece of ice), which can lead to psychological complaints, such as anxiety and depression. A quarter of young people are so anxious that it disrupts their daily lives or sleep.

How do you help your child to deal with his thoughts about this crisis? “Parents should not downplay the problem in the hope of protecting their child,” says Susan Pugels, professor of family mental health at the University of Amsterdam. Education and growth in times of uncertainty is one of the topics she publishes. Kids know the problems – they hear daily about nitrogen, animal care, floods and wildfires caused by global warming. It’s about real communication and hope.”

It’s good to contribute something

Make the topic manageable for both kids and teens by showing them what they can do: eat a vegan diet, don’t buy new jeans, buy used electronics, and stop grilling. “It is not necessary that the examination trips go to Albufeira or Ibiza, young people can have a lot of fun in Abelcha or in Villeland.” It is also hopeful: Show your child what successful projects already exist. “Tell stories about what has changed for the better in recent years. In Africa, trees are being replanted, more and more homes have solar panels, and people in Amsterdam can swim in canals again.” This is how you can reassure anxious children. I realize the problem is big and the threat is real. But try to shift the conversation towards what can make your child feel better. Suggest doing something, the kids love to contribute.” On an afternoon of collecting trash with friends, collecting neighborhood deposit bottles and donating their proceeds, preparing to talk about the climate.

So, talking about it with good hope, but “living life” is more important, says Pugels. Not telling children what to do, but doing it themselves. “Parents should radically change their lives: stop flying, don’t get a dog or any carnivorous pet, stop shopping, drive electric or get rid of the car. Insulate the house, remove tiles in your garden, collect rainwater and use it for plants.” Kids see it and they will imitate it later.”

Also read this personal piece: How I learned to deal with depression about the climate

This is also the theory of Tineke Janzen (30) from Leeuwarden. I have been working on sustainable living for a year and a half. She tries to teach her children (6 and 4) to respect nature – “Don’t step on mushrooms,” she says during a walk in the woods, hoping that later will motivate them to make conscious decisions. When she asks her kids about the bar of soap in the bathroom, they say, “We don’t use shampoo because it ends up in the ocean and that’s sad for the turtles.” Janzen buys toys and used clothes or exchanges them with people in the neighborhood via Facebook. “In exchange for a few bottles of organic wine, I got three dolls for my daughter.”

What if kids walked past a toy store and wanted all kinds of things? “I photograph what they are referring to and do research on Marktplaats. I explain to them that it may take a while before we find the magic wand or the fire engine. They know we don’t participate in ‘Order now, it gets delivered tomorrow.’ And what do you say when your child complains about things? Not at home?” I try to approach the matter positively: we do not buy a package of cookies, but bake them ourselves. together. Much nicer, isn’t it? “

be realistic

Mascha Bongnaar also tries to cheerfully approach the changes in the house: “I wanted the kids to take a shorter bath and bought a used shower radio. They were allowed to choose their favorite song in less than 3 minutes. Before the song was over, the tap was turned off.” For children’s parties , offers an experience as a gift: “Going to the movies with a friend instead of something from work that’s quickly interrupted.” She says many things are taken for granted. “We don’t eat meat, but we don’t talk about it, there’s just a meal on the table. I buy used clothes, and my kids and classmates don’t care that they come from Vintide.” In this regard, young children are still quite docile, but what about when they become teenagers? Bongnaar is already feeling some resistance, the biggest being in Group 8. “He said recently, ‘Mom, I don’t want to hear that, I know now.’ So I have to pick the right moment.”

Dealing with the problem realistically also means that you can let go of it from time to time. This gives children a sense of security and reduces the stress on stressful youngsters that they must be constantly occupied with. Bongnaar: “If they ate a frikandel special at the end of the sports season, I wouldn’t say anything about it.” Last weekend the family went to visit friends. She wanted to ride a bike, but the kids said, “Mom, it’s raining, we really don’t feel it.” Bongnaar: “So I didn’t say Earth was going to the studs, and I took the car.” Call it climate split. Sometimes you make inappropriate choices for the climate due to budget or limited time. “This is a human being, the kids should see that.”

Susan Pugels shares this view: “You can take time off from the climate crisis. Watching the suffering in the world is a good advantage, but it can also lead to psychological problems.”Mercy fatigue“It is a condition sometimes experienced by those who help people, animals, or the world in need.” This can happen to both parents and young adults. Self-compassion is important, then. So teach kids to take good care of themselves and how to relax, says Bugles. “It is necessary to keep up. Sports, after school relaxation, hiking, communication with others and nature, meditation. Teach them to ask themselves, “What do I need?” This also applies to parents, by the way.”

Yes, Mascha Bongnaar sometimes finds it very tiring to scream all day: the door is locked, the lights are on, the clicking. The children had recently been playing in the dunes and they were covered in sand. Then she almost felt guilty for putting the boys in a full warm bath. “While they were having a good time in the water for an hour and a half. They must also be kids.”


As children understand and learn more about the climate crisis, they display almost two types of reactions: anger or complete disinterest. Some young people are so angry that previous generations lived so irresponsibly that they are now left in shambles. Bugels: “It might be good for young people to find like-minded people they can talk to or take action. Have them read about youth sections of political parties or groups like the Youth Climate Movement.” She says joining creates a sense of belonging, and is a powerful treatment for depression.

It also becomes disinterested Teen Retreat Mentioned: Young people between the ages of 14 and 18 may go through a period when they are least concerned about the climate. They realize it’s a global problem and they don’t have much influence on it. For some reason to go to the barricades, for many it is precisely the stage at which they focus on themselves. Bugels: “It’s normal for kids to push themselves away. You have to believe it’s going to be okay.” This is how Janzen sees it, too. If her daughter later refuses to wear second-hand clothes or buy cheaply produced makeup from Primark, I have to accept that and hope it’s temporary. Now I’m showing them all the possibilities. When they get older, it’s up to them what they do with it.”

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