What do children need to learn today to live in a climate crisis?

Ángel Marroquín

The environmental crisis is also a mental health crisis. Terms such as “eco-anxiety”, “environmental grief”, “eco-paralysis”, or “eco-cynicism” show how the glossary of terms used to name the emotions with which we face this crisis have been expanding. This new lexicon implies that the indefinite malaise that affects us after watching the 9 pm news headlines is shared worldwide today.

All of us are indeed used to receiving bad news, but it affects us differently when it comes to the state of the environment around us. It is because we are talking about a future that we cannot see, that we cannot even imagine. We are talking about family plans, the future plans of our children. And it is here that the problem begins.

None of us can imagine how this environmental crisis will be solved, but our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will probably live to see it. And this is the problem:

What is the best way to equip a child today to face this bleak future? How to get them to adapt to a world that is changing so quickly?

These were the kind of questions that guided the Australian Psychological Association in publishing “Raising Children to Thrive in a Climate Changed World” [1]

The report, published in 2018, was written for parents. It contains four sections with suggestions to help adapt children to the current environmental crisis: developing individual competencies, interpersonal competencies, participation and active citizenship.

This kit of competencies for future survival recommends parents not catastrophize the environmental crisis. Instead, it suggests helping children identify their feelings, promote behaviours of resilience and adaptability, and, finally, encourage children’s active citizenship.

This groundbreaking report has opened a new field of work for those interested in promoting the mental well-being of children and helping parents who do not know how to deal with this issue because they are emotionally affected with the impossibility to think about the future beyond the current environmental crisis.

This issue is vital for various reasons, and each of us has its own, but I want to highlight one that is key to me: the children of today will have to take charge of the world that will be left to them. A world that clearly is not going to be in its best shape. The better and faster they know the truth, the better they will be at tackling the challenges they will have to take on to keep this carousel spinning.

[1] https://psychology.org.au/getmedia/825eba10-9020-48d5-bf4c-44b0da388d52/raising-children-to-thrive-in-a-climate-changed-world-18092018.pdf

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