We’ve been experiencing climate change in recent years due to our heavy reliance on fossil fuels. This has heightened the intensity and frequency of natural disasters. Such issues may enhance a child’s vulnerability to mental issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Many in the solar industry recommend using renewable energy, which is eco-friendly. Still, a complete transition to green energy will take several years to happen, if it happens at all. Burning fossil fuels has polluted the air, which has been linked to children’s experiences of depression and anxiety.
This article discusses the affiliation between climate change and your child’s mental wellbeing. It also discusses what you can do to sustain your child’s mental health in a changing climate.
How Does Climate Change Affect Your Kids’ Mental Wellbeing?
Due to climate change, the intensity of natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires increases. During the occurrence of a natural disaster, many families will be forced to leave their homes and properties behind to survive. In the aftermath of this disaster, this family may become destitute and have trouble getting access to basic needs such as drinking water, food, and shelter.
A negative experience such as this will trigger mental disorders in your kids, such as the ones above mentioned. A study was conducted on 400 respondents (between the ages of 8-16 years) who are recovering from PTSD following Hurricane Katrina. The study discovered that:
- Roughly 25% of the respondents developed post-traumatic stress disorder shortly after the hurricane incident. However, a couple of years after the hurricane, there was a decline in the symptoms of PTSD.
- A minority of the respondents still exhibited the symptoms of PTSD two years after the hurricane struck.
Triggers of Mental Issues in Children and Teenagers
These triggers are described as Adverse Childhood Events, which are traumatic events that can trigger “toxic stress”. This type of stress can impair the development of their young bodies and brains, which may have long-lasting health complications.
Some of the common adverse childhood events include:
- Parental mental disorders
- Physical abuse
- Being exposed to violence
- Natural disasters
Natural disasters will most likely result in mental health issues for the child, particularly when the child directly experiences the loss of their home or a loved one. The greater your kids’ exposure to adverse childhood events, the more vulnerable they are to developing health issues, which might stem from drug abuse, unwanted pregnancies, HIV, or even cancer.
How to Help your Child’s Mental Health?
Suppose your children have experienced a natural disaster or consistently worry about the direct effect of climate change on them. In that case, you can make them resilient to the resulting toxic stress by doing the following:
- Be more involved in the life of your child. The presence of a parent or adult can act as an effective buffer or cushion against the development of toxic stress for a child or teen.
- You can encourage your kids to take healthy risks to make them more resilient to adversity. Healthy risks include stepping out of your comfort zone to try out new activities or become acquainted with new people. Doing things like this can enhance their self-confidence.
- Be a role model by teaching your kids the benefit of persistence by overcoming an obstacle in your life. For example, when your child is failing at something, talk to them about your setbacks and challenges and how you overcame them. Make your kids understand that challenges are part of life, and persistence is key to surmounting them.
The Role of Communities in Making Children Resilient to Traumatic Events Triggered by Climate Change
- Provision of excellent education at the early stages
- Having teachers who can show care to students directly affected by a traumatic event
- Provision of green spaces which can improve mental health