Professor’s tips for parents dealing with worried kids
PARENTS, educators and politicians should remain rational and calm when explaining the climate change debate to children and point out positive change is occurring — albeit slower than some might hope.
Prof Ian Hickie said it was reasonable to reassure children the world isn’t about to end: “It’s not the stroke of midnight. A catastrophic event is not about to happen. At the heart of anxiety management is putting things into context in time and place.”
His other tips for calming worried children include: • Don’t say “don’t worry”: “Telling people not to worry about things they’re worrying about, is not helpful. If someone says ‘don’t worry’ when it’s obvious that the world around you is worried, ‘don’t worry’ is unhelpful.” • Give context: “The media gives the impression that (crises) are happening everywhere all the time, and they’re not. Although we have had (worrying) incidents happen in Australia, we don’t have to be fearful every day in every place so we moderate that response and our own anxiety goes down.” • Respond in a real and tangible way: “The most appropriate response to anxiety in that situation is to take action. People are most fearful when they perceive there’s a threat but there’s no action. We need to respond in our families and in our communities. This might just be pointing out rationally what’s going on — that the world is moving to renewable resources, that the scientific community has reached consensus, that new technologies are being deployed.” • It is the role of teenagers to challenge. Let them: “They are emotional in their response to the situation. They’re aroused, they’re upset and they’re not convinced that their parents get it right.” • Teach anxiety-coping strategies: “We’re lagging behind on this in primary schools, particularly in children aged nine and above, and also with their parents.” • Don’t turn off the television and throw away the phone: “Technology is our friend. There are plenty of apps to help manage anxiety and plenty of information available about positive environmental change.”
Professor Ian Hickie.