NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: The following is an abridged transcript from a discussion that took place on the Shrink Tank Podcast. The following includes commentary from four mental health professionals.
Alarmists have noted an increasing number of children who are being treated for “eco-anxiety”.
Researchers and psychologists in the United Kingdom note children are commonly being subjected to a barrage of concerns about the future of the planet and environmental doom. According to an article in Newsweek, psychologists warn parents and guardians about being climate change alarmists.
The same researchers and psychologists, however, say they don’t want the rising eco-anxiety in children to be classified as a mental illness because it is a “rational fear” unlike the causes behind most standard anxiety issues.
So how should parents address this social phenomenon?
3 Ways Parents Can Address Eco-Anxiety and Climate Change
1. Have Conversations
You have to have ongoing conversations with your child, and the conversations shouldn’t always be doom and gloom as these are a series of discussions, a dialogue, that applies to everything else. It applies to how to manage money, it applies to sexuality, it applies to politics.
It underscores the fact that parents need to have these conversations with kids on an ongoing basis, which also emphasizes the fact that parents have to have a good relationship with their kids to be able to have these discussions.
When parents and children have these ongoing conversations, kids are much more perceptive and aware of larger societal, cultural issues than they are given credit for. Today, they are getting bombarded with news information and constant content on social media, that parents aren’t always privy to, that helps to contribute to this eco-anxiety.
If parents aren’t having these conversations, it makes perfect sense that children would be anxious and they assume that the worst is going to happen when the reality is the future is so uncertain.
2. Understand the Facts
Climate change is a real thing and it’s something that is worth our attention, something that is a legitimate threat. However, there are indications that it’s something that is 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, 75 years away. Why do you think that this problem, not something that’s more catastrophic and immediate, is a source of anxiety for this generation of kids?
What this generation is acknowledging is that this is a large problem—and adults have overlooked this major issue for far too long. People often have a misconception between the idea of weather, which is day to day, versus climate. People often equate the two, which is inaccurate. Weather can be viewed as a catastrophic force if tornadoes are coming down and destroying your home.
Climate is something where cumulatively over decades scientists view as a trend and a pattern, and so it’s harder to determine what’s contributing to these changes.
This is a problem and this generation are calling out the previous one that is waiting until it becomes catastrophic before they do anything. And at that point, it’s too late. Children and their peers are saying, “Listen, this has already happened”.
3. Make a Plan of Action
This phenomenon is really about slowing down and reversing these issues to prevent the catastrophe from worsening. If that happens, it’s too late. Furthermore, children are going to be the ones that are going to be at the prime of their age in life and have to deal with that. It’s calling out previous generations.
So at the root of eco-anxiety is that kids have no real control. That lack of control with things happening to them, paired with the limitations they face being children, greatly contributes to said anxiety.
But the difference between what this generation is doing compared to previous generations, is they don’t feel powerless. The anxiety is still there, but children are starting to believe they can have an impact on something.