Pediatric Associates of the NW Blogs

Talking With Our Kids About The Environment: How Much Information is Appropriate?

Scott Spencer, MD, MPH
May 22, 2018 01:00PM

If you are like me, you care about the environment, especially as it pertains to the health and well-being of our children and future generations.  You are likely already doing your part to help protect the environment – recycle, drive less, use reusable bags or purchase environmentally sound products. And, likely, you are already talking to your children about the importance of why you are doing these things.  Your goal may be to raise an environmentally responsible child, or possibly one that can help change the course of the planet. But, how do you start?  At what age do you start talking about climate change? Is there a developmentally-appropriate way to stimulate a child’s mind about the environment?

 An article in the April 6th issue of Portland’s Street Roots newspaper ( caught my attention on this issue. The article outlines an interview with an environmental champion and mom, Mary DeMocker, who just published a new book “The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution.”  In the article, DeMocker illustrates an important pediatric concept of developmental appropriateness.  Climate change is obviously a potentially scary, anxiety provoking concept.  DeMocker points out that she doesn’t recommend telling kids “under the age of 14 that their planet is headed toward catastrophe.”  She points out, “there are distinct periods of childhood that we need to honor where children are developmentally.” She then goes on in her article to outline how kids of all ages can become engaged with the environment and “still get a good night’s sleep”… part of the subtitle of her book, even if we don’t have a frank discussion with them about what the outcomes could be if we don’t protect the earth.


What this author is saying fits perfectly with the concept of “Building Resiliency.”  At Pediatric Associates of the Northwest, one of our chief goals is to help parents build up their child’s resiliency. In a nutshell, resiliency means developing a child’s self-confidence, enabling them to tackle and overcome any adverse event in the future. And when it comes to global warming – this is the adverse event that we and all our children are going to have to face. So, as we are thinking about teaching our kids to be good global and environmental citizens, it is helpful to use the concepts of resiliency as a framework for this education. This way, children can feel competent, confident, connected and in control of their own global future, and we will know they have the character and ability to cope with anything that the world is facing!  You can find out lots of information about building resiliency by speaking with one of our providers or visiting our website