The threat of climate change for children is far larger than for adults - they are going to spend their lives in a reality we are only just beginning to see. The impacts here now are already harming them. So what do children need from us? Protection is a core emotional need. As adults we need to step in, and children need to see us stepping in.
The child protection process requires a full assessment of the child's world to include an honest acknowledgement of the threats. And a plan that we are working together to enact that brings together the whole community invested in their protection. What can be done to mitigate the harms to children? What can be done to support them to adapt to their future? How do we provide this as best we can? This is the conversation they need to hear and the action they need to see.
Caroline Hickman states that "Climate anxiety and dissatisfaction with government responses are widespread in children and young people in countries across the world and impact their daily functioning. A perceived failure by governments to respond to the climate crisis is associated with increased distress. There is an urgent need for further research into the emotional impact of climate change on children and young people and for governments to validate their distress by taking urgent action on climate change. "
Greta Thunberg, who started the school climate strikes, stood in front of the UN General Assembly in 2019 and said "I shouldn't be up here, I should be back at school". She was right. Children and young people's emotional distress drove the school climate strikes. And their emotional distress reflected the lack of protective action by adults. It is a safeguarding issue. Children have an emotional need to experience that we are acting to protect them. The action itself is what is needed. That we are taking a considered, child-centred and responsible approach to the climate and ecological emergency. That we are being responsible adults.
But doing it well and safely with the needs of the child in mind is paramount.
Here is a useful link to the UN site about how to speak to your child about Climate Change https://www.unicef.org/parenting/talking-your-child-about-climate-change