As I tried to get my head around what the climate scientists have been saying, the ongoing bad news about species disappearing and what seems to be the weapons-grade complacency of our leaders, I had to work hard to keep myself from teetering into a pit of despair. That question “When people in the future look back on this time, what do you want your contribution to have been?” has been my main antidote. And cartoons. I love cartoons. Marvel comics. Studio Ghibli. You name it. So, imagine my delight when I got an email from Norman Warden at Galway Counselling pointing me towards a cartoon book about the climate crisis. Another way in to helping people look at this thing straight in face and be able to play their part in saving something of a future for those coming after us. What do you want your contribution have been?
When my daughters shared their view of how the world looks to them as they venture further into it, I felt pretty embarrassed at how much I’d developed the ability to screen out so much of what they’re unable to ignore as it impacts hugely on their future. I remember, when I was a mouthy teenager ranting about the state of the world, being told “it’s not as simple as that – you’ll learn when you grow up.” I did indeed learn – not much of it was that useful and now I’m going to need to unlearn most of it. I’m still pretty staggered at how little our leaders seem to be taking the situation seriously. Sure they will point quickly enough to this, that and the other initiative or suggest that some other country should be doing more. However, if I read what the scientists are saying correctly, the action that is being taken is nowhere near on the scale that is required to create a future for our children and their children that is remotely close to one that we would want for them. Someone asked me last week “As this situation unfolds, how do you want to be remembered by future generations?” As I’ve discovered, if this is something that is troubling you…you’re not on your own and there’s some good stuff out there that will generate the energy and the ideas to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. That’s a pretty good thing to be remembered for. This publication from the Australian Psychological Society (there’s a theme here isn’t there) is full of well researched ideas and information that will point you towards your sleeves and have you rolling them up in no time at all.
The general consensus seems to be that the subject of climate change is, to put it mildly, upsetting. I think that it would be fair to say that most people who’ve had a go at thinking about it, let alone talking about it, have come away feeling a variety of emotions that come under a general umbrella of ‘not great’ – scared, worried, terrified, panicky, confused, depressed, overwhelmed, angry…just to try naming a few. Anyone could be forgiven for just not wanting to think about it, denying that anything’s happening or simply giving up and climbing into a cupboard until its all blown over. It probably won’t blow over, and my children need me to be thinking and talking with them about it. They’ve told me as much…and they’re probably not the only ones. I have been told by some that I’m wrong and I’m being alarmist. Nothing would delight me more if this turned out to be the case. This is one situation where I would be genuinely happy to throw a party to celebrate having made a big mistake. I guess time will tell. Until then, this great handbook put together by a group of psychologists offers some insights into how and why we respond psychologically to climate change, and how we can look after ourselves emotionally and get involved in preparing ourselves and our children for the future. Let me know what you think – what do you like about it? What could be improved? Would you recommend it to others?
When I first became a dad 30 years ago, I really was clueless. Not that much had changed by the time my 8 year old daughter came along, but at least I had some experience, had read a few books on parenting and had made working with parents an area of special interest at work. But none of that had prepared me for what has become the defining challenge for parents of our time. I’ve been having conversations with both of my daughters about a future that I certainly hadn’t anticipated. These conversations have taken me completely by surprise. Talking about the climate crisis with my daughters and what this brings for their future has been heartbreaking, inspiring and disorientating. This leaflet for parents from the Australian Psychological Society was so helpful in giving me practical tips on how to approach this subject. It offers ideas about how to talk with children of different ages, what to say, how to say it and what to do. I hope that you find it as handy as I did. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts – would you recommend it to others? Are there ways in which it could be improved and developed?
I read this comment recently from a member of the public who was talking with an Extinction Rebellion activist doing their thing. In that comment I immediately recognised the signs of my own sense of being overwhelmed. Yep, been there done that. For quite a long time. Then one day my daughter talked with me about her worries for the planet and her future. Was I really going to look her in the eye and and come out with my own version of that? Or was I going to do the twin opposite and tell her not to worry and that it was all going be all right? Neither was really an option…I had to buck up my ideas, sort myself out and promise that together we’d do what we can for her future. This absolutely brilliant publication from the Australian Psychological Society has 101 suggestions (yep, there’s 101 of them) for very specific things that people can do. I randomly went to pages to take a look at what was there and was stunned at the amount of action that I could take. Some of it right now. There’s so many things that need doing…fortunately there’s plenty of people to do them. You can’t do everything, but you can do your thing. So, find out what your thing to do is, and crack on with it. If this leaflet’s anything to go by there’s probably more than just the one thing too…https://www.psychology.org.au/getmedia/2a2156ab-559c-4316-888a-a8cd82fcb780/101-things-you-can-do-climate-change_1.pdf
As more information emerges about the increasingly fragile state of our environment and the language has changed from “global warming” to “climate change” and now “climate crisis” it’s obvious that something has escalated to a point of danger. This has me wondering whether what our children are learning about in schools is preparing them in any way for what the future may hold. Call me Mr. Negative-pants, but the future looks pretty precarious from where I’m sitting. The children and young people that I’ve spoken with seem pretty clear that the future that they see and the one that their schools are preparing them for appear to be drastically different. This leaflet, from the Australian Psychological Society outlines some thoughts about the kinds of skills that our children will need to live in a world that we find hard to imagine – probably because it’s not really what we’d want for them. ‘Sustainability’ needs to be shunted dramatically from the fringes of the Curriculum to something resembling the front and centre. What do you think schools should be teaching our children given their uncertain future? What do children need to know and what skills do they need to have? Do you think that this is all a distraction that’s worrying them unnecessarily and getting in the way of their education and future life chances?
Solution Focused Parenting Courses
https://www.parentsplus.ie I’ve been working with Parents Plus for a number of years as a Facilitator and more recently as their Senior UK Trainer. Their use of solution focused approaches lends itself perfectly to enabling parents to think and talking constructively together about the difficulties that they’ve been experience and how best they might approach them. I’ve found their courses really enjoyable to facilitate – which seems to be a common experience. More importantly, parents consistently report finding the courses helpful and enjoyable to attend. You’ll find relevant information about the evidence base for the Parents Plus courses on the website. Get in touch if you’d like to know more – I can also put you in touch with people in the UK who are offering the courses.
This You Tube clip from Dr. Dan Siegel has been one of the inspirations for teaching sessions at UWE and my articles in the Irish Times. I wish I knew this when Belle was a teenager, I’m glad I know it before Ella becomes a teenager. Dan’s work is well worth checking out…let me know what you make of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLULtUPyhog&frags=pl%2Cwn
To get things going, here are a couple of articles written for the Irish Times about dramatic changes in the brain during the teenage years and how parents can harness this knowledge in order to maintain their relationships with their teenager and support them on their path to independence.