Parenting brings along with it a constant undercurrent of worry. Our love for our kids gets translated into this all-consuming desire to always get it right and provide the very best. We imagine bright futures for them and work our asses off to provide every opportunity. But what we weren’t imagining in that future was record-breaking heat waves, thousand-hectare-wide wildfires and air quality so bad we don’t even want to let them play outside. Adding these images into the picture can send us into a downward spiral of dread dizzyingly fast.
Feeling stressed, fearful and even depressed about climate change and other environmental issues is called eco-anxiety. This new term is being recognized and studied more than ever as extreme climate events are beginning to impact every corner of the globe. Research is showing that eco-anxiety is especially prevalent in parents and may even be linked to postpartum anxiety.
So, what do we do? Throwing in the towel is obviously not an option. We have compiled advice for managing eco-anxiety as a parent and even some ideas for feeling hopeful about the future.
1. Take the world off your shoulders
The first thing we all must do is remind ourselves that it is not our sole responsibility to solve the climate crisis. As parents, we are navigating this world while doing our best to teach our little humans how to navigate it alongside us! This is more than a full-time job already. The stress of feeling like it’s all up to you to go zero-waste, car-free, vegan, etc. all at once does much more harm than good. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that being a positive member of the ecosystem is one of your responsibilities but not the only one. You’re not meant to tackle all of the world’s problems on your own.
2. Spend time in nature
Connecting with nature is one of the best ways to curb eco-anxiety. It reminds us that at the root of our feelings is a deep love for the earth. No matter what is stressing me out in my life, I know that I always feel better after standing under a tree or dipping my toes in the ocean. Many studies show that time outdoors is a proven stress reliever. A UBC Professor is even leading Canada’s first evidence-based nature prescription program that allows your doctor to now prescribe you to go outside and enjoy nature.
Taking your kids to enjoy natural spaces also allows them to connect and build a respect and care for the environment. As the fall approaches and outdoor spaces may become less accessible, don’t forget that nature documentaries are an amazing way to bring the outside world to you.
3. Read and enjoy uplifting stories
With the never-ending rhetoric of doom and gloom in mainstream news, it can be easy to believe that the world is only full of negativity. It seems that the only time climate change makes the news is when an extreme weather event has come knocking on our doors. While there are of course many scary and true climate stories out there, there are just as many uplifting and positive accounts of climate action. Reading independent news sources like The Tyee or The Narwhal that focus specifically on solutions stories can breathe new life into your views on climate change.
4. Take action as a family
Leading by example with environmental action is one of the best ways to teach your kids while reducing your own anxiety. Getting involved in fighting climate change will majorly improve your feelings of worry. Some easy examples are volunteering at beach clean-ups and tree planting events. These activities are appropriate for all ages and allow the whole family to get involved. When it is safe to do so, actions like attending environmental documentary screenings or peaceful protests open us up to the amazing community of people working to make a positive difference for the planet.
It’s our job to protect and care for our kids and standing up for the planet is included in that. However, we can’t do either job if we’re feeling too much stress, worry and despair about the state of our planet. Taking care of ourselves and our families comes first. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. So, take care, find joy in the hope and rely on the global community of earth-lovers to keep you going when our task seems impossible.