I’ve been talking to my 5 year old a lot about the weather recently. His assessment of the constant rain we are having is that actually it’s not summertime at all, and, his logic follows, Christmas must surely be around the corner. I’ve floated the idea that it is still summer, it’s just not very summery. But the seasons are so tied to weather in his mind that time must bend instead.
It’s hard to talk to kids about climate change. They’re only just learning how the world works: they need immutable truths and boundaries. Telling them now that weather systems are vulnerable and dynamic - and affected by human behaviour - brings an element of chaos that is harmful to their understanding of the world. At the same time, we have a chance to raise kids to think of themselves as caretakers of the environment, not just adventurers and conquerors.
As with most things, as a mum I like to bring big macro events down to my kids’ level. I don't want to raise them with a sense of fear and doom (there's enough of that out there in the world already), but nor do I want to be blasé or dismissive about climate change in a sort of knee-jerk response to all the fear-mongering out there.
So I tell them actions do have consequences, but it also takes many repeated actions to effect small changes. I encourage my kids to do what they can to participate in the collective responsibility humanity has for the world, without harbouring anxiety about stuff out of their control.
My hope is that this helps them be compassionate and conscientious - to think about the impact of their lives on the environment, without making environment-preservation central to every one of their decisions.
Sustainability is a means to their care and kindness, not an end in itself.