Discussing the Psychological Impact of the Climate Crisis On Children – II

This interview was conducted as part of the research and development studies for the children’s book Kreta the Time Traveler Project, applied by Project Zoom, supported by Impact Hub and the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul. The interview consists of three parts. Please begin by reading the first part, “Discussing the Psychological Impact of the Climate Crisis On Children – I”. The questions were answered by guidance counselor Canan Çağdavul, psychological counselor Ramazan Özkan and Yasemin Gültekin, who is a PCG executive at TED Eskisehir College, a board member of Eskişehir Gelişim Vakfı and an ambassador for change for Teachers Network.

– One of the essential factors in controlling the climate crisis is changing our consumer habits. Consuming less or consuming only for our needs. How should we share this topic with children? Because if we continue consuming in this way, we will face a terrible picture in the end. Should we describe this picture to children?

Ramazan Özkan-Canan Çağdavul: We are in a place where the child, parent and lifestyle are essential. At this point, sincerity and belonging are the first points to look at. How do we explain consumption to a family who is at the shopping mall every weekend? All our efforts will be wasted.

At this point, families and children should be able to establish these relationships with their peers. When the children see this in their environment, there is no problem. The thought of “I can wear second-hand clothes too” will find its reality when experienced by family and child. We should explain this picture with these words: “Our sources are not limitless, and there is a life cycle. And when people intervene in this cycle, the balance is disrupted.” We should explain the concept of consumption especially clearly. When a family buy the best of everything for their child, the child thinks that they are in the same class as the goods. We cannot create a perception that this world has limitless sources. When the family gets the child the best of everything, they equate their own worth with what they get. Simplicity should be turned into a lifestyle so that nature can be internalized.

In this context, we see that it is important to teach children the concept of climate change along with the concepts of environmental education and sustainability, gain positive and permanent behavioral changes, and ensure children’s active participation in solving problems. Thus, children realize that they have individual power over climate change and see themselves as able to do something about climate change.

Yasemin Gültekin: Consumption is the most important point at issue. Not only goods, but people and relationships are consumed rapidly. I believe that we should teach children and their parents to value what they have, both materially and morally, in a world where friendships begin and end with a click. Children have so many things that they don’t notice their absence, so their possessions become things that don’t need to be protected, but are replaced by a secret hand when they disappear.
The child should be reminded repeatedly, with care and compassion, by both educators and families. that the pleasure of using a pen right down to the last drop of ink is more important than buying a new pen and showing it to their friends.
Our aim should not be to paint a terrible picture. However, we should emphasize that it is necessary to create a language so that children perceive things, moments, and memories not as objects of consumption but as things that must be preserved and maintained for a common purpose. For me, to show this in our behaviors, language and lifestyle, and to experience this together is essential.

– I would like to ask, with regard to the previous question; My generation grew up with hand-me-downs from their predecessors, but our children haven’t grown up like this. Modern pedagogues in particular have imposed on children the idea that they should use their own personal items. They supported the concept of personal possession by doing this. But we need to change this and return to the old system. What do you think about introducing and implementing concepts such as second-hand goods and swapping in children’s lives? What does psychology say about this?

R.Ö. – C.Ç.: There was poverty and purchasing power was limited in the old days. We all had to use the same things through the generations. Now, everything is cheaper but accordingly it lacks quality, is easily damaged and does not last long. This situation is both the cause and the result of consumer society. Families are trying to glorify their children by buying them everything, and this cycle causes great damage to nature. We would achieve better results if these kinds of people returned to nature and established relationships with an environmental way of thinking.
It is necessary to show the destructiveness of excessive consumption without harming the child’s sense of self. You need to be prepared for the subject to come up and to decide what, how, and how much you will say.
The memory of an educator who has been involved in environmental studies in America may be a good example here. Through a teddy bear’s label, on which the place of production is written, they had an online interview with the factory in China; the children learned about the materials, the amount of water, electricity, human labor used in making it, and all the production stages of that bear. And this led them to this question: “What can I do about this, now and in the future?” Not to feelings of guilt and despair.

Y.G.: I am not in agreement with modern pedagogues. (I am even against the word “pedagogue” but that is a discussion for another time.) Contrary to the concept of individual possession, I think that we need to show children that everything can be transformed, and emphasize the contribution of using something even up to five times, not only once, to the world. Therefore, the concepts of bartering and second-hand goods should be present in children’s lives, and they should be given opportunities that enable them to experience these concepts by doing and living.
A generation who are anxious about famine do not want their children to experience the same famine. They are also the same generation who want their children to play the piano, which is normally their own passion. They can only raise children who focus on pleasure. There is no need to be a psychology professor to predict that these children will not worry about the future of the planet and will see everything as accessible in order to gain advantages for themselves in their individualized world.

– Children who want to fight the climate crisis may have conflicts with their families. How can they manage these conflicts, and how can we help them?

R.Ö. – C.Ç.: The messages we give the child in order for them to adopt and internalize the subject, and the way the child perceives the activities are critical at this point. After the process, the child becomes aware of the task that falls on them and can make some decisions. When putting these decisions into practice in their own life, the first effects will be observed by their families. The expectation of the child will be in this direction, too. The reactions they receive from their family at this point are crucial.
The first thing to do in order for families to act together with their children and for correct guidance is to learn what the child understands by the concepts of climate crisis, consumption, and sustainability and what kind of meaning they attribute to these concepts. With the principle of unconditional acceptance, respecting every idea and thought, seeing the process through the child’s eyes, applying problem-solving steps will be easier for families. The child will be equipped with problem-solving skills by using an approach such as presenting ideas, identifying similar or different thoughts, finding a solution, and implementing the solution.

One of the four fundamental rights specified in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child is the “Right to Participation”. There is no justifiable excuse for this not to be put into practice, as the child has the right to speak about the world they live in. Children’s struggle with the climate crisis has given us very different testimonies. For the first time, a child, Greta Thunberg, has become a climate activist, and many children from all over the world have responded to her call. We see examples of the seventh and eighth steps on Roger Hart’s Child Participation Ladder. On the one hand, these are exciting, amazing developments. On the other hand, the kind of attitude, behavior or qualities adults have will also be determined by their attitude towards this desire of children’s. These conflicts will be overcome by adults changing and transforming with the children.

Y.G.: Children can struggle with the climate crisis by changing their lives, and this can only be possible under the guidance of adults. An attempt by a child to struggle alone using social media tools like Greta would be nothing more than letting them drown in a sea of internet, which is an unsafe environment for children. The family should support the child in this struggle to the last, but draw the boundaries according to the characteristics of the child’s age. For example, we can let them make a video about home recycling, upcycling, or compost and send it to close friends or family. However, allowing the child to open a YouTube channel may cause them to come across stimulation and bullying that will affect their psychological resilience. Enabling teachers to exhibit children’s work in virtual classrooms and closed family groups created using web 2.0 tools will also help support them in this struggle. However, it is important to explain that when they reach the appropriate age, they can share these old videos with the social media tools they use.