Climate change is real, and the negative repercussions on our planet are becoming more visible. Countries and corporations throughout the world have recognised the urgency of climate action and are ramping up sustainability efforts to find solutions. However, the impact of deteriorating environmental conditions around us extends beyond the physical – it has given rise to ‘eco-anxiety,’ which is disproportionately affecting children and the younger population.
“The American Psychological Association (APA) defines eco-anxiety as a source of stress resulting from watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable effects of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations. Simply put, eco-anxiety refers to the hopelessness and feeling of loss that results from witnessing the impact of climate change and worrying about the future,” explains Rushda Majeed, India Representative, Bernard van Leer Foundation who feels people of all ages have easy access to smartphones now, news about climate change is abundantly available. “There is a flip side to this – as children become aware of the issue, eco-anxiety is rising at a faster pace as well,” she adds.
A recent study published in The Lancet medical journal suggests that climate change leads to increased anxiety, hopelessness, worry, and fear in children. The same concludes that at least half of the surveyed children and young people responded with one or more feelings about climate change. These feelings ranged from sadness and guilt to anger and helplessness.
“Parents are also increasingly facing questions and concerns on climate-change-related issues from children, such as a fear of running out of water or the possibility of entire cities drowning in the future. Given this worrisome trend, it is vital that parents and other stakeholders in a child’s life take steps to address eco-anxiety in children. Constant stress on young minds can lead to behavioural problems as well as health issues later – both mental and physical,” says Rushda
Parents and teachers are the most influential individuals in a child's life. Experts believe that initiating dialogues at home and school about climate change is essential for assisting children, especially younger ones, in coping with eco-anxiety. Here are a few more ways that can be effective:
• Encourage children to discuss their feelings through open communication. Create an environment in which a youngster is not afraid or hesitant to communicate, but rather comfortable and secure in discussing their feelings.
• Educate them about climate change without causing stress. Knowing that steps can be made to address the problem can assist to alleviate their concerns.
• Share good news about the environment as well, letting people know that it's not all doom and gloom. Highlight individuals and organisations that are taking climate action and raising awareness about decreasing everyone's carbon footprint.
• Discuss how children may become involved in actions to combat pollution and lessen the consequences of climate change. Even the simple act of planting trees can be beneficial, and it is an activity that the entire family can participate in.
• Young children may believe that they are helpless and that they cannot contribute enough to climate action. Parents and other caregivers can assist them in taking little, daily efforts to foster action. This not only gives youngsters optimism for their commitment to the cause, but it also gives them a feeling of purpose.
If the child is still unable to cope with eco-anxiety, seek expert assistance. The correct counselling and therapy sessions can help them manage their stress.
Also Read: Eco Friendly Parenting: Raising Kids That Care For The Planet