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“Every time I rescue a bee, it matters. If I didn’t rescue it, the hive may not have enough bees, and then there’d be less honey, and less flowers, and less fruit, and when people go shopping there would not be enough for them to eat.” – Dani, 7 years old
I have spent 7 years teaching her about the interdependence of all life, and our place in the web of living beings. Yet upon hearing her articulate the values I so carefully instilled, I am filled with a range of contradicting emotions. Wonder at her growing capacity to understand the world she sees, delight and pride in her thoughtfulness and compassion, concern about the (developmentally normal) level of responsibility she believes she holds, and a piercing sadness at the truth she has yet to know: That bees are dying at an alarming rate; their disappearance has already begun to impact food production, and there are no current solutions. Her individual efforts to save each bee she sees, precious as they are, will do nothing to change this devastating fact. I am afraid of what will happen to her when she finds that out.
How, as parents, do we navigate the dual responsibilities to teach and inform our children of the world they will be inheriting, while also protecting them from undo suffering? When and how do we introduce them to the changes the climate crisis is imposing upon their home and the world? How do we hold space for the anxiety and despair that accompanies their growing realization of the climate crisis? How do we model right action for them when our own stress reactivity is so triggered?
No generation before us has had to answer these questions. We are on a collective journey, co-creating the answers. Climate change will never be the abstract, distant concern for our children that it once was for us. So many, like my own child, have lived through more natural disasters in their short lives than we faced in all our previous decades. And my child is one of the privileged ones, able to escape both the heat and the fires of her hometown because we are resourced enough to flee when necessary.
How do we prepare our young ones for what’s to come, while also facing and coping with our own fear, despair and guilt? And how do we guide them to steward the world they have been given, to be agents of positive change and sustainable community in the years to come? How do we help them fall in love with a world that we know they will one day grieve?
For guidance, I turn to mentors such as Joanna Macy and Daniel Siegel, and to my spiritual practice. To soothe my spirit and to help create sustainable culture, I take direct action on behalf of the living beings of the planet in as many ways as I can find – be it conserving water, picking up litter at the river, planting trees, avoiding plastics consumption, calling legislators, attending protests, etc. I do so in community as often as I can, for collective action is far more powerful and more empowering than anything I can do alone. And I bring my daughter along as often as I can. I nurture her love for the natural world and I encourage her action on its behalf. And I do my best to instill strong coping tools that will strengthen her resilience in the years to come.
I am committed to guiding others on this journey. I use elements of Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects, mindful parenting, ecopsychology and nature therapy, within the framework of Dr Bruce Perry’s neurosequential model: first we regulate our bodies and emotions, then connect in relationship, then we can access all the brilliance of our thinking minds to take right action together. I will support you while you access and process your own emotions about our changing climate, so you can be prepared to hold space for your child and take action on behalf of their future. I will provide developmental guidance as you navigate how to have these difficult conversations and promote your child’s wellbeing in this time of radical uncertainty.
As Joanna Macy says, “It is the not knowing that keeps us alive. It brings forth courage and creativity in ways that would never happen if we knew ‘it’s all going to be alright’ or ‘it is already too late’.”
See my blog posts for more thoughts on parenting in this era: https://www.jennisilverstein.com/mothering-in-the-age-of-climate-crisis/
Resources for Parenting in the Age of Climate crisis
Parenting in a Changing Climate, by Elizabeth Bechard
How to Talk to your Kids About Climate Change: Turning Angst into Action, by Harriet Shugarman
All the Feelings Under the Sun, by Leslie Davenport
Presence, Parenting and the Planet, by Daniel Seigel