This week is children’s mental health week. It is well documented that the levels of mental illness, and problems such as self-harm, are on the increase among young people.
Nicky Severn, Marketing Manager at Cawleys, asks if negative messages around climate change could be contributing to children’s depression. And, if there is more that can be done to use the environment and eco-issues to promote a positive mindset among our kids.
Last month a study carried out by, Danish energy provider, Orsted, revealed that many adults would like to talk to their children much more about how to fight climate change. As a result, the organisation took it upon themselves to launch a fantastic new book that provides parents with a plethora of hints and tips around how to educate kids about global warming in a more positive way. The book aims to help parents answer children’s tricky questions without frightening them or giving them the impression that fighting for our planet it is a hopeless cause.
It’s not too late
As an eco-friendly organisation Orsted’s aim is to create a world that runs entirely on green energy. Whilst this target may seem ambitious, it is becoming increasingly obvious that our children will have no choice but to try their god damn hardest to achieve this.
It goes without saying that the importance of teaching children about the environment and ways to tackle the destruction that past generations have created is vitally important. Governments, conglomerates, schools and organisations around the world recognise this, and it has even been suggested that environmental issues should become part of the National Curriculum in the UK.
Climate change is scary
However, tackling environmental damage is not an easy subject to discuss. Aside from the technicalities involved in explaining the causes of global warming and pollution, the visual impact can sometimes be difficult to swallow. Sea creatures with plastic in their stomachs, wildlife with rubbish stuck on paws and beaks, and turtles with cotton buds lodged in their airways are just some of the images we regularly see in campaign materials.
Whilst photographs showing this stark reality have a vital part to play, it is also important to consider the impact this imagery can have on kids. Furthermore, scaremongering about the need for urgent action and repeated discussion about the destruction of the planet could make children feel helpless and negative about the task ahead of them.
4th – 10th February is children’s mental health week and the last thing any environmentalist would want to do is add youngsters’ worries. With this in mind, is it time to tackle the approach to environmental issues a little differently?
Keep it positive
Rather than focus on the negative, young people might prefer an approach that highlights the benefits a healthy environment can have on their lives. As well as the feeling they get from making a positive difference to the future of the planet.
It is well documented that fresh air and natural light can help lift peoples’ moods, not to mention the positive impact of regular outdoors exercise. In addition, being part of a group and the feeling of belonging can really help positive self-image. With such a pressing need for environmental campaigning, litter picking, recycling, upcycling, beach cleaning, wildlife care and much more, it is obvious that there is a huge opportunity for young people to get involved on a practical level, rather than just hearing the terrifying technicalities of global warming in a school class room.
Increasingly schools, colleges, universities and youth organisations are waking up to this opportunity and the positive attributes of using the environment to head-off depression and negative self-image. Many are creating ‘green groups’ who work together to tackle environmental issues head on. Other organisations are using interaction with wildlife and animals to give young people an alternative focus and an opportunity to learn new skills. One such organisation, Ride High in Milton Keynes, does just that by inviting young people with difficulties to learn how to ride and care for horses.
In a world where kids are focused on self-image and the isolated consumption of YouTube, online gaming and social media, there is a lot to be said for helping young people see the bigger picture from an early age. So how should we speak to our kids about the environmental issues?
Firstly, it is important to emphasis action
A list of facts will have little impact other than to bombard children and create a negative picture. Taking action and providing reason is far more effective.
This can begin at home or at school. For example, asking your children to sort recycling materials, choose their own re-usable water bottle, turn off the tap when brushing teeth or start a compost are all great starts. The trick however, is to explain why each action is important. Educating kids about how food waste breaks down and why it is better off in your garden than landfill is something that can be explained on a practical level. Other simple changes could be riding a bike to school, avoiding plastic bags and turning lights off.
An approach of this nature is a simple way to teach kids about climate change and show them that they have the power to make a difference. They can then be encouraged to talk about their actions at school and think of new ideas of their own.
Immerse them in nature
Getting out among nature regularly reiterates to children that they are part of the world and not separate to it. Making the interaction fun by playing hide and seek or making up stories about woodland animals or going on a ‘bear hunt’ is something kids love.
Encouraging a connection between children and nature will foster a need in them to protect it. Gardening in your own back garden or growing a plant in a flower box can create a love for the natural world and teach kids that what humans do have a direct impact on the planet. What’s more, the positive sense of achievement that can be derived from growing something from scratch and tending to it is immeasurable.
Kids love animals
Whether it’s dogs, cats, polar bears, turtles or fish, children have a natural affiliation with animals and want to love and protect them. Talking to children about how climate change can affect their favourite animals makes things very real to them. Discussing how leaving a light on can have a long-term impact on a polar bear’s icy environment will really help children to think twice about their behaviour. The most important thing is to always focus on the positive and let them know that there is something they can personally do to make things better. This will give them a boost and ingrain eco-friendly behaviour for years to come.
Cawleys are dedicated to helping young people learn about the benefits of reduce, re-use and recycle. If your school or organisation would like to know more about how we can help educate pupils and put the processes in place to make it easier for them to recycle contact us today.