Supporting our Children with Climate Change Worries

With the extreme weather that has been happening around the world including what is already the worst wildfire season ever in BC, and subsequent attention on climate change, you might find that your pre-teen or teen is having big worries and questions about the future of our planet.

As our children become pre-teens, their sense of self is becoming stronger; they are starting to wonder, “who am I and how do I fit in with this world.” As they enter adolescence, they begin to consider their purpose, think ahead to the consequences of theirs and others’ actions, as well as be aware of their global responsibility. There are many more conversations in classrooms these days about social justice issues such as Truth and Reconciliation, Black Lives Matter and climate change which nurtures our children’s critical thinking skills and sense of compassion.

All this means that they may be feeling overwhelmed with worries and fearful of the impact of climate change.

In fact, a study of 1000 Canadian youth ages 16 to 24 published in January 2023 by researchers at Lakehead University found that most young people have big worries about climate change. 78% of youth surveyed reported that climate change impacts their mental health. They named feeling sad, anxious, afraid and powerless. What is also troubling is that 32% reported that they do not talk about these feelings with anyone and 36% reported that when they do, they felt ignored or dismissed.

So how do we address these concerns especially when we might be feeling the same sense of helplessness as our children? It can be tricky, but the answer is to help our children find hope while at the same time not minimizing their concerns or feelings.

Here are some tips to do that:

1. Listen to their worries. Once you’ve listened, respond with empathy to let them know you’ve heard them; for example, “All the flooding and wildfires are scary. You are wondering what is happening and what is going to happen. Climate change is a really big worry for you.”

2. Help them name the feeling if they haven’t. You might say something like, “It feels out of your control and you are feeling quite helpless.” Or “I can imagine it feels overwhelming.”

3. Resist the urge to problem-solve or minimize. If we jump to problem solving, it can feel to our children like we haven’t really heard their concerns. If we minimize by saying, “It will all work out,” we are not only brushing off their feelings but also appearing untrustworthy because we don’t actually know that it will all work out.

4. Identify ways they can take action. Being able to take action helps children (and adults) feel like they are regaining some control which feels more hopeful.  Here are web pages that might be useful:

a. Youth Climate Corps British Columbia is a youth-led climate action campaign and program

b. Be The Change Youth Alliance is a Vancouver based non-profit that delivers eco-social education

c. BC Government’s Climate action for youth page is resource page which includes ideas for action in your community, at school, at home and for yourself.

5. Find the hope. While not minimizing the impact of climate change, it is important to be hopeful. Feeling hopeless can lead to withdrawal from relationships and an avoidance of doing things that you like. Small activities, like naming what you are grateful for or taking a walk in nature and stopping to notice the smells, sounds and sights, can be helpful. Maybe you and your child share what you are grateful for over dinner or by text at the end of the day.

6. Research youth climate changemakers. Two youth who are making a difference are Autumn Peltier, a member the Anishinabek Nation and a clean water activist, and Haana Edenshaw, a member of the Haida Nation on Haida Gwaii, who is part of a group of 15 youth suing the Canadian government for its contributions to climate change. Keep an eye on the Brower Youth Awards which are hosted by the Earth Island Institute. They celebrate young environmental leaders across North America. The 2023 award ceremony is in October.

For yourself, you can connect with like-minded parents and caregivers by joining For Our Kids which is a national organization with local parent-led teams that network and take climate action “for our kids.”

If you find that your child continues to feel overwhelmed, you may consider reaching out for counselling support. Climate change is a big topic that brings up big emotions and it is important that we talk about it with each other and our children.

I would be interested in hearing if your child has expressed worries about climate change and how that conversation went for you. You can contact me at