Climate change scares our children. Can bedtime stories help? – Canada’s national observer | Directory Mayhem

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and appears here as part of a collaboration with the Climate Desk.

When author Katherine Applegate toured schools for her book wishing tree – a novel about prejudice for tweens, told from the perspective of an oak tree – the students kept wanting to talk about the climate crisis. They were stressed about whether polar bears were going to die and panicked about the world they would inherit. Her questions inspired Applegate, but she was intimidated: Her previous books have dealt with heavy subjects like animal cruelty and poverty. But climate collapse? That is a challenge.

But it’s one that kids grapple with. A 2021 global survey of 10,000 young people, published in That lancet found that 59 percent were very or extremely concerned about climate change and 75 percent felt the future is scary. The publishing industry has embraced the sentiment: According to Nielsen’s publishing market research, sales of children’s books with an environmental focus increased by 69 percent between 2019 and 2021. These aren’t just stories about animal tea parties or truffula trees. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, these books capture children’s anger and despair and are filled with calls to action.

Take Sita Brahmacharis Where the river of gold flows, A 2019 novel set in a dystopian future where bees are extinct and children have to work to pollinate the crops. Or Lily Williams’ picture book series about extinction, When animals disappearedstarted in 2017. We are water protectorsa 2020 picture book by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade and inspired by the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, was a bestseller.

Applegate — who jokes that her “default setting is pure and utter pessimism” — has grappled with those emotions in her latest book. Willodeen. Aimed at children aged eight to twelve, it takes place in the village of Perchance and features fantastical animals such as flying hummingbirds and stinky screechers. It may also be hit by disasters and droughts. The title character’s parents are killed in a devastating wildfire. “It almost seemed like the earth was mad at us,” laments Willodeen.

Mental health research has shown that focusing on doom and gloom can keep people inactive, while doing more inspiring and action-oriented work can be motivating. To that end, Applegate says she wasn’t concerned about creating a world of ecocrisis — kids are “so much more sophisticated and enlightened and conscious and idealistic” than we assume, she says. Instead, this backdrop sets the stage for a hopeful triumph as Willodeen persistently champions restless ways against indifferent politicians.

Another model comes from Coco’s fire, co-authored with the Climate Committee of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, a think tank of practicing psychiatrists. When Coco, a young squirrel, learns of disasters caused by climate change, an inner fire symbolizing her fear begins to burn red. As she meets other activists and begins to clean up her own life, it cools to a blue flicker that helps her “be more engaged, not excited.”

Jeremy Wortzel co-wrote the book with his fiancée Lena Champlin as an alternative to the images of a lonely polar bear or sinking cities that children might encounter. The Flame is inspired by the visual metaphors psychologists use to introduce children to big concepts like death. “This traditional notion of scaring people that we’re in trouble and you need to act now… doesn’t help everyone,” says Wortzel. “We’ve tried to get to the root of what this fear that spurs people on is actually doing.”

Will a scared squirrel or a magical village really ease children’s existential angst?

The climate crisis is what philosopher Timothy Morton calls a “hyperobject,” something so uncontrollable that it overwhelms people’s minds. The mental health community has no official guidance on how to treat climate anxiety, but studies have found that individualized interventions help patients cope. Coco’s fire follows a six-step “Climate Talk” guide developed by the Psychiatric Group. First, they say, introduce climate change and find out what kids already know. This is followed by simple scientific explanations and a clear (not glossed over) discussion of what it means, reasons for hope and ways to get involved. The lecture ends with a reminder of the wonders of nature.

Sales of environmentally-related children’s books soared 69 percent between 2019 and 2021 — and they’re packed with calls-to-action. #climate fear #climate mourning

Leslie Davenport, therapist and author of the book Climate Anxiety for Children All the feelings Under the sun, says that the conversations look different depending on age. Children under the age of six, she says, tend to develop an innate sense of responsibility for nature. When kids become aware of climate news, Davenport focuses on small actions like recycling or driving less. Around age 10, she says, “desperation” creeps in and the conversation needs to move on. Stories of triumph in the face of realistic crises, she says, are therapeutic. “A story that’s purely apocalyptic isn’t helpful, but one in which emotions are acknowledged and kids find ways to manage their feelings and get involved can break through,” says Davenport.

Goade says that was the goal of We are water protectors. The idea of ​​tribal peoples fighting an oil pipeline (depicted as a black snake) sounds overwhelming. But she and Lindstrom felt it was a perfect story to offer inspiration in the face of the insurmountable. In virtual book talks, the students eagerly asked what they could do to help the water conservationists.

“As a children’s book author, someone once said that we were ‘merchants of hope,'” says Goade. “That can be a bit of a challenge when we feel underwater with the current state of affairs. But it’s also a really amazing thing.”

Leave a Comment