Pro­fes­sor’s tips for par­ents deal­ing with wor­ried kids

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER -

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.

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