The other day, I sat across from a friend who had just had a baby. She’d spent the weekend doomscrolling through social media posts and updates about COP26. “I am terrified thinking about the world I brought a kid into,” she told me. “Am I the only person this freaked out?”
I didn’t know what to tell her to make her feel better—climate change is terrifying and overwhelming and anyone with a kid knows this acutely—but I did know this: She is not alone. A March 2021 study by the Yale Program on Climate Communications shows that 71 percent of Americans think global warming will harm future generations. Google searches for climate anxiety have increased dramatically over the past year.
Whereas even a few years ago, talking about your “eco anxiety” might have been met with blank stares, there are now dozens of incredible books, videos, Facebook groups, and in-person events to help people come to terms with the future. Here are some of the best resources to help parents grapple with their climate fears.
Parenting in a Changing Climate: Tools for cultivating resilience, taking action, and practicing hope in the face of climate change, by Elizabeth Bechard
A blend of memoir, science, psychology, and practical tools, this book has become my go-to recommendation every time a parent tells me they’re struggling with climate anxiety. Bechard says she wrote the book to be a “gentle bridge” for parents. It does a skillful job of acknowledging the paralyzing fear and uncertainty of the future while offering powerful research-backed practices to help people become more resilient. Her description of her own experience with eco distress while caring for small children is particularly vivid. Anyone who has been through something similar will find themselves nodding along.
Warmth: Coming of Age at the End of Our World, by Daniel Sherrell
Written as a letter to an unborn child, Warmth steers clear of the sometimes hard-to-read science and data of climate change and sticks to the emotions. Sherrell is a climate activist who is grappling with the decision of whether to have a child, and his anguish and uncertainty comes through on every page, along with vivid and concrete fears for the future. “What I’ve tried to do with this book is figure out how I can live and keep taking steps forward on that tightrope between blind optimism and deflating despair,” Sherrell said. He succeeds at that, and the end result is a book that reads like a long conversation with a very thoughtful friend.
The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution: 100 Ways to Build a Fossil-Free Future, Raise Empowered Kids, and Still Get a Good Night’s Sleep, by Mary DeMocker
The first sentence of this book begins with the word “Relax.” DeMocker then promises you that she’s not just going to overwhelm you with yet another thing to add to your already full to-do list. When I spoke with DeMocker, she told me she encourages parents to not just try to do or say the perfect thing, but instead “adopt a parenting style of empowerment and listening and believing young people’s feelings.” For parents who are eager to spring into action but don’t want to waste time on futile lightbulb-changing tasks, DeMocker provides a well-researched, creative, and inspiring list of ways you can fight for your kid’s future. While the book is more focused on action and less on emotional processing, it doesn’t leave that part out entirely. The section called “Care For Your Soul” will be particularly helpful for anyone deep in climate grief.
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Parents for a Future: How Loving Our Children Can Prevent Climate Collapse, by Rupert Read
For the parent who leans a little more to the philosophical side, this book provides a moral argument for why parents should act on climate change. The first part of the book focuses on why parents—who would often give anything to protect their children—are so slow to move on the biggest threat to their children’s future: the climate crisis. The second part of the book lays a moral and philosophical framework for what needs to be done. A convincing—if sobering—read.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change: Turning Angst Into Action, by Harriet Shugarman
While this book is mainly about how to engage with your kids on the topic of climate change, it describes itself as “a lifeline for parents who are feeling overwhelmed with fear and grief” and includes grounded advice for how parents can deal with climate distress. Plus, Raffi calls it essential reading and frankly, I don’t know if higher praise exists.
Get Mental Health Support
One of the biggest challenges of trying to find a therapist or counselor to help with your eco distress is that many mental health providers aren’t equipped to discuss climate change, much less help you process the overwhelming emotions that can accompany it. Enter the Climate Therapists Alliance and their directory of “climate-aware” therapists.
According to their website, “a climate-aware therapist is a professionally trained psychotherapist who recognizes the current climate crisis both as a globe-spanning challenge to the sustainability of human and non-human life on Earth and as a deeply personal challenge with many psychological impacts.” Every therapist in the directory has pledged to deliver mental health services consistent with that framework and in alignment with the established science of climate change.
With a nod to well-known recovery programs, Good Grief offers a 10-step group program designed to help you build resilience. Good Grief creator Laura Schmidt says the project began when she was a student and saw how few spaces there were to process difficult emotions around climate change and the environment. “I had degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies and was earning a masters in Environmental Humanities,” she told WIRED. “Time and time again, we were presented with all of the world’s issues with little space to discuss how this impacted us emotionally.” Schmidt interviewed professors and scientists, studied the latest research in sociology and psychology about climate, and used that to design the 10-step framework for Good Grief as a way to “participate in meaningful actions in such chaotic times without losing heart.”
Each group (virtual and in-person) is limited to 15 participants and meets 10 times over 10 weeks. The groups are pay-what-you-can and include virtual and in-person options.
The idea of journaling as a way to process difficult emotions is not new, but the Climate Journal Project makes this activity simple and powerful by offering guided prompts that help you process your fears and emotions around climate change. “The first step toward planetary healing is internal healing,” says founder Yvonne Cuaresma. “Climate journaling as a tool toward healing involves practicing mindfulness and gratitude to nourish our ability as climate advocates and leaders.” On top of free journaling prompts and virtual journaling circles, the project explores topics around environmental justice, lowering your carbon footprint, and economic insecurities.
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You can join their free weekly journaling circle on Wednesdays, buy their journal for $18 – $25, or get a free five-day journal prompt when you sign up for their email list.
If you are craving climate-related conversations in your social circle and are looking for some DIY group materials, this is the place for you. All We Can Save is a bestselling collection of essays from 60 women who are at the forefront of the climate movement. Now, as an offshoot of the anthology, the group has created All We Can Save Circles. They describe it as “a book club, but a cooler, deeper, extended version.” The framework involves 10 sessions (with soothing names like Reframe, Reshape, and Persist), and the facilitation materials are free for anyone to download and start their own circle.
According to its website, the Alliance lies at “the intersections of mental health, social justice, and environmentalism to bring positive transformation, equity, and healing for the Earth, ourselves, and our communities.” The Alliance for Ecotherapy & Social Justice offers a wide range of online ecotherapy workshops and conversations about social justice.
Created by Margaret Klein Salamon, aka “The Climate Psychologist,” these virtual conversations are an hour long, open to everyone and free to attend. The conversations are held three times a month and are for anyone who wants to share their feelings about climate change—and listen to others. Participants have described the conversations as “empowering,” “comforting,” and “world-shifting.”
Founded by a group of respected climate scientists (who are also moms), this organization is trying to motivate everyday moms to demand solutions that preserve the planet for their kids. “Eighty-three percent of moms are concerned about climate change across all political parties and races. That’s why I cofounded Science Moms,” climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe told me. Science Moms offers a free toolkit to help you talk about climate change with your friends and family, and it also hosts free webinars on climate-related topics.
Deep Adaptation is a social movement for those who believe that climate change will increasingly threaten access to food, water, and governmental systems and ultimately bring about societal collapse. The movement emphasizes nonviolence, compassion, and “preparation” for a new future. If this resonates with you, you will find like-minded parents in this group. Post topics range from processing emotions to sharing links and resources to practical prepping tips.
An offshoot of the #FridaysforFuture movement (started by Greta Thunberg), Parents for Future is a network of hundreds of groups in at least 23 countries. They have templates for letter writing and other actions you can participate in, as well as links to more local groups. They also offer a Climate Parent Fellowship, which supports parent activists around the world. They have a strong presence in the EU and UK, so if that’s where you are, this could be a good group to connect with.
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Extinction Rebellion (sometimes called XR) is a global movement with the goal of using nonviolent civil disobedience to encourage governments to act on climate change. You may have read about members scaling the Eiffel Tower, blocking roads in Berlin, or gluing themselves to buildings in London. If you’re called to pop your baby in a carrier and break some laws for the sake of the planet, Extinction Rebellion has a group specifically for families and also one for grandparents.
Founded in Oregon, Families for Climate is a US-based organization that is focused on bringing parents AND kids together for climate action. Sign up to get invites to the group’s events and resources specific to kids—like information on urban shade equity, plastic consumption, and methane gas.
A national climate activism organization, Mothers Out Front operates on state and local levels and offers lots of free events, like virtual webinars, training, and book club meetings. This organization seems especially engaged in the eastern United States and has a big presence in Massachusetts.
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