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We need to talk to our children about climate change

Health Opinion
 Our children are being forced to grow up in an increasingly dangerous world where climate change is disrupting the environment and our ecosystems. [iStockphoto]

I recently asked my seven-year-old daughter what she knows about climate change. Her answer was “Nothing!” 

“Do you want to know?” I probed. She seemed curious but a bit distracted because I was competing for her attention with ‘Caillou’ on YouTube Kids. I managed to get her into the climate change conversation when I heard Mama Caillou tell Caillou to use sunscreen. I asked her if she knew why Caillou had to use sunscreen and then, what climate change is. It then dawned on me that we, as a society, need to do more to educate our children about climate change.

According to UNICEF, approximately 1 billion children are at an 'extremely high risk' of the impacts of the climate crisis. “These children experience multiple climate shocks combined with poor essential services such as water, sanitation and healthcare…”

Our children are being forced to grow up in an increasingly dangerous world where climate change is disrupting the environment and our ecosystems.

UNEP highlights that “climate change is yet to penetrate the environmental representations of some communities and there is a need to address the disconnect between local issues and global climate change.”

Recent research also shows that Kenyan curriculum content has not kept pace with climate change in local areas or nationally. Many headteachers, teachers, and learners do not think the climate change curriculum is relevant enough to their local area, and yet the negative impacts of climate change outpace what is covered in our textbooks.

Children can feel many emotions about climate change, such as being anxious, frightened, sad, and angry, which are very natural reactions to something as uncertain and devastating as climate change. While it’s natural to want to protect kids from harm and worry, talking about climate change with our children is necessary. Besides, chances are, they are already hearing about climate change, whether at school, online, or from their friends.

Climate change presents one of the greatest challenges of our time as it is massively affecting human societies in multiple ways. Our children need the support, skills, and infrastructure to ensure they can not only survive but also thrive in the face of this uncertainty. In the words of the late Whitney Houston in her song, Greatest Love of All, “Children are our future…teach them well and let them lead the way.”

The author is a multimedia journalist, mother, and mental health advocate

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