by Fleur Wells
Parent, Teacher, Young Climate Warriors Trustee
To paraphrase Whitney Houston; the children are our future! A cliché perhaps, but like all good clichés, it’s rooted in truth. In a short while, our children could be the independent decision-makers, teachers, activists, enthusiasts, policy-makers, and catalysts-for-change we hope they will be. The onus is therefore on us, as parents, the main educators in their lives, to inspire, teach and provide the toolkits to live in an eco-positive and sustainable way.
So, no pressure then.
How can parents help their children have a green mindset?
No one wants to be a nag; we all get sick of hearing the sound of our own voices doing that, and it is only a short-term approach, enforcing uninspired, duty-boundness. If we want our children to inspire others, we must, of course, inspire them.
Perhaps some shock factor, to get the sustainable juices going? There’s plenty to doom-scroll online if you’re looking for something to jolt them into action, in the hope of inspiring them to be the next Greta. While alarmism is often a very effective stimulus, it is not the only and certainly not the best tool in your kit. Great for attention grabbing, but it can also contribute to a great deal of counter-productive anxiety, and even worse have a negative impact on mental health.
So, if as a parent you are looking for positive messaging about climate change – to encourage and empower, rather than potentially trigger eco-anxiety, Young Climate Warriors is one of a number of fun, matter-of-fact and practical resources available to you, and for free.
Its purpose is to inspire young people to want to get involved and to give it a go, whilst amplifying their voices in a way that suits them; there’s no dry whitepapers to slog through, neither are there the angst-inducing clickbait articles. Set up in February 2019, by Katrina Judge – with a child-friendly website (www.youngclimatewarriors.org) and weekly challenges, it encourages children and families across the country to choose that ‘green mindset’.
Katrina explains; “I felt compelled to convert my feelings into actions and channel my energies into a venture to try and help combat climate change.”
By offering children fun, weekly climate-change related challenges the initiative inspires carbon-busting action around the home, encourages climate change discussion, and sparks creative and imaginative activities in nature.
The team of children and families who subscribe for free (who are affectionately referred to as Young Climate Warriors) are making a positive impact through individual actions, tweaks and lifehacks. The collective power and good-feeling generated by these micro-actions are shared and amplified within their communities, through school assemblies, often featured in local press, and of course celebrated on the YCW social media channels (Instagram: @youngclimatewarriors and Facebook: /youngclimatewarriors).
Speaking from personal experience, my own two children (10 years and 7 years), take great pleasure in planning family meals using locally-produced and in-season vegetables. This was originally inspired by an activity set by Young Climate Warriors in June 2020, and has now become something of a Sunday afternoon ritual as they flick through cookbooks, do a little research on a nearby device, create a colourful meal plan and scribble out shopping lists for the week. This has two major benefits. One, it saves me a job. Two, it gets us chatting and thinking together so we can make the best environmentally friendly decision we can.
Some Young Climate Warriors challenges are easier than others, the ebbs and flows of life mean they don’t always present the easiest option, and we don’t always get it right. Back to the family meal analogy – the produce of the week may not be everyone’s favourite, or the final dish not something any of us think we fancy, it’s not the most convenient option, but we do our best, and we discuss it. The very act of mindfully planning our meals in a sustainable way is both cathartic and it allows us to slow down and think about how we shop and eat.
It’s very real and practical, and it involves the children in such a way that they enjoy ownership and not feel they are being preached to. It’s real, it’s local, it’s immediate and it’s relevant. It’s not crusty grown-ups and politicians talking around a nebulous concept. It helps to connect the dots.
Young Climate Warriors helps to do just that with all of its challenges – connect the dots between the very real effects of climate change and what we do, and can do better in our day-to-day lives. Young Climate Warriors believes that the best way to engage and activate our children is to make it fun and satisfying to be part of the change.
Children always learn by example and early behaviours and beliefs will be ingrained and carried through into adult life. However, by taking part and subscribing to Young Climate Warriors as parents and primary caregivers, we may also learn a thing or two from the children as well.