Giving Compass' Take:

• Lucy Goodchild van Hilten breaks down five tactics that parents and educators can use to effectively communicate climate change to children. 

• How can funders help to bring fun, age-appropriate environmental education to children? 

• Learn more about environmental education

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a final call to keep the global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees Celsius of preindustrial levels. Doing so will require “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Yet no matter how many times world leaders sit at a table to fix the problem, we can’t seem to get anywhere. The grown-ups are failing, and it’s the kids who are holding us to account.

What’s clear to me now is that there won’t be a single moment when we need to have “the talk” about climate change. Instead, climate change needs to be something that’s part of our everyday conversations and actions. It needs to be fun and engaging, solutions-focused, and fact-based. And, above all, it needs to start now. Here are five techniques that can help.

1. Turn it into a story
Kids love stories. They can be a great way to get a complex message across. But don’t panic: There are loads of great climate change stories out there already, and they’re great conversation starters.

2. Build up the facts
As a science writer and general science enthusiast, I think it’s important that we’re honest with kids about climate change. But that doesn’t mean they need to see the whole picture right away.

I asked people in a Facebook group called Sustainable Community of Amsterdam how they talked to children about climate change. Many said they first introduced their young kids to how nature works: How plants use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, why water is important, why we need to look after animals.

Dina DeHart, the group’s manager, has a 6-year-old. As a parent, she focuses on connection to nature and consequences, and the climate change part will come later.

3. Tell the truth—but in manageable pieces
We have to tell the truth, but that means we’ll inevitably reach a point at which the story gets scary. That used to worry me: Climate change is a huge and terrifying topic for adults—just imagine what it could do to children.

4. Help kids take action
However we present it, there’s no getting around the facts: Climate change is deadly serious. While the latest IPCC report highlights the need for urgent, drastic action at an international level, it also puts the onus on the individual: There are things we can—and must—do now to make a difference. And that gives us a great opportunity to make the climate change conversation one of action.

5. Make it fun
Taking action doesn’t need to be serious; in fact, making it fun will help kids engage with the topic. Yet we’re still using the same tired old messages.

Read the full article about teaching kids about climate change by Lucy Goodchild van Hilten at YES! Magazine.