Environmental Anxiety – 3 things you can do to help your kids

Anxiety comes in all forms and it doesn’t discriminate as to whom it affects. Children are not immune to anxiety and one of the leading causes of anxiety for kids today (under 18) is the environment. This post isn’t going to get into a debate on climate change. I will say two things; first the world is warmer now that’s not debatable. Second, there are more ways to obtain information now than ever before which makes things seem worse than they are.

All that out of the way it doesn’t negate the fact that children have environmental anxiety. Are they being taught that humans are polluting the world? Is it some vast liberal conspiracy to indoctrinate these kids? I don’t know but what I will say is their awareness of environmental issues is impressive. “Not in my life time” is something I might be able to say, my neighbors kid Kate who is 11? What does the world looks like in 40 years, 2061?

How do you help them now though? Isn’t that a parents most important charter? To empower their kids to be productive and thriving adults? (rhetorical of course).

  1. Start a recycling cycle: Every family accumulates trash. Types of trash vary depending on where you live but its most likely that you have accumulated plastic. Plastic can be rinsed and recycled. Make it a weekly or bi weekly task where you and your children clean the plastic and bring it to a recycle center.
  2. Read articles about climate change together: Direct engagement here, read the climate change stories with your child. Don’t read the stories to the child, read them WITH the child. This enables the child to engage YOU directly on the issue, discuss it, tell you what they think. You in turn get to tell them your point of view as well. You don’t have to agree with everything written but you are doing it together and that’s the critical point.
  3. Buy local products: Bring your child with you and purchase local products from small businesses and individuals in your area. Going to a super store near you means you are consuming products that were probably shipped via a container, then trucked in. This type of product is one of the dirties products in the world. Not the item itself but how it got to the store. Inform your child of this, tell them why you are buying local and or why they can’t have “Item X” from big store retailer, tie it into the environment.
Plastic destroys the environment
Plastic is choking the world to death

Small incremental changes where you are engaging your child directly gives them a stake or as we say in my part of the world “skin in the game” to the environment. They crave your guidance; the world is full of information now they are getting data from multiple inputs every minute of every day. The tips above give them avenues to affect positive outcomes, learn about issues and most importantly interact with you and hone in on your family’s values when it comes to environmental issues.

Remember when they are middle age adults somewhere in the 2050’s the world might be a very different place. It could be environmentally worse or better depending on the values we instill now. Even if you don’t think climate change is a major issue the tips above are all positives. Your child will appreciate it.

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Anxiety: How young is too young?

Anxiety sucks, it can lead to many negative outcomes that can have serious impacts on people’s lives. I know not a bold statement out of the gate, if you have anxiety you know this. So when is the right time to identify symptoms of Anxiety? 20? 50? 7? What if anxiety is something you have had all your life as early as you can remember? At 5 you were anxious, 11…. The good news is Anxiety is being studied more broadly now than ever before. I found a good article here on how some scientists are beginning to look at anxiety in very young kids.

From the article: “For an anxious child, seemingly normal activities can be hard. Worried kids have trouble adjusting to school, making friends, and learning. They can feel inhibited, avoiding challenges by running away or retreating into themselves. While parents may feel desperate to help, their approaches can backfire. For example, trying to talk kids out of their feelings or keep them away from anxiety-producing situations may inadvertently make the anxiety worse.”

This of course is the normal “first step” every parent out there tries to help their kids with the tools they have. Sometimes it makes things worse and not by desire of course, the assumption is by many parents their relative experience in the issue is similar to that of the child’s hence their advice should be applicable.

Laugh with your kids, it’s awesome.

The article essentially debunks that notion as anxiety is an individual condition for the most part. I mean if there is a fire in a building everyone is going to feel a degree of anxiety. The social triggers of most anxieties though are individual based and the article/study do a remarkable job of outlining the subtleties of the issue as it pertains to very young people.

My instinct on this is extremely cautious. I am heartened by the notion that there is an effort to help children deal with an issue that over time can blossom into a full blown debilitating condition. On the other hand, I have always believed that a degree of freedom is necessary for kids to figure out for themselves how to navigate life and the situations that it presents, within reason of course.

In the end this is a net positive as minimally this will help the kids who do have serious anxiety issues. It will also give guidance and a playbook for the adults in the kids’ lives on what they may be able to do to help. In the end more research, more awareness, more avenues to discuss and treat anxiety is a net positive for everyone.

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