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Heard on CultureShift

How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change

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Image credit: Courtesy of Katie Johnson

WDET’s Annamarie Sysling kicks off a monthly conversation with Planet Detroit Editor Nina Ignaczak. First up: Parenting in the age of climate change.

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Have you had ‘the talk’ about climate change with your kids? It’s quickly become one of the most pressing topics to address with the next generation. In the first installment of a new monthly conversation between WDET’s Annamarie Sysling and Planet Detroit’s Nina Ignaczak, the pair discuss parenting in the age of climate change.

Ignaczak, who has an 11-year-old daughter, reached out to a fellow parent who also happens to be a climate expert about how to talk to her child about climate change without scaring her. Dr. Courtney Howard is an emergency physician in Yellowknife Canada, President of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and a mom. 


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Click on the audio player above to hear the entire conversation and read takeaways from Dr. Howard about how to approach conversations about climate change with your children below


Nina Ignaczak
Nina Ignaczak

Ask your child how they’re feeling and what they know about climate change.

This will help to establish a baseline of what they already know and how they are processing it. Howard says that once you have that information, it can be productive to ask whether they have ideas about how to help.

Consider what kinds of changes can be made at home.

That might be changing dinners to be more plant-based or finding more opportunities to ride bikes or walk instead of driving to and from activities. On a larger scale, Howard says changes might look like flying on airplanes less and vacationing closer to home. ”That may feel to [your child] as though it’s bringing your lives at home in alignment with what [they] feel needs to happen in order for the earth to also be healthy,” explains Howard.

Encourage your child to use their voice.

Empower your kids to stand up for what they think is right and to engage in dialogue around this topic. “I think children have a voice that is super powerful when it comes to holding leaders to account,” says Howard.

Be willing to broach “uncomfortable” subjects with your children.

Howard explains that these conversations around difficult issues like climate change, or gun violence or the timeless “sex talk” can be extremely valuable. “It’s almost like the new sex-ed conversation of our time. It’s the awkward conversation that’s hard for parents and kids to have, but it always feels better once you have that conversation and everybody kinda knows what’s what and knows what to do next.” 


Ignaczak applied some of Dr. Howard’s recommendations to a conversation with her daughter Maria about climate change. Listen below:

Ignaczak and Sysling are co-moderating a lunchtime community discussion and panel conversation on February 20th at Techtown Detroit at noon. Space is limited and registration is required. 

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Anna Sysling, Reporter, Producer and WDET’s Weekend Edition Anchor

Lifelong resident of Metro Detroit and a huge public radio nerd. I work in Production and Programming at WDET.

annamarie.sysling@wdet.org Follow @asysling

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