'Climate change' is Children's 2023 Word of the Year – parenting experts reveal their top 5 tips for easing the eco-anxiety

Parenting expert shares their five tips that will help you ease climate anxiety in your child after climate change is ranked top word making kids 'scared', 'sad' and 'worried'

girl holding globe of the world in her hands
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Climate change is one of the top words that is making children feel 'scared', 'sad and 'worried' according to a new survey and experts have given their top five tips for parents looking to ease the eco-anxiety in their children.

Most parents teach their children to think for themselves but children's mental health is now a growing concern with more kids asking for answers about some of the biggest news topics like why Russia invaded Ukraine. And as the second anniversary of the conflict approaches, you might want to know how to talk to children about war or talk to your kids about the cost of living crisis if you're struggling to pay the bills.

And with climate change now ranked as the Children's Word of the Year following a survey of 5,000 children by Oxford University Press, you might be looking for ways to help alleviate your child's fears over climate change and global warming. After all, it's a topic that a third of children (33 percent) said was their word of the year for 2023, with the war coming second (31 percent) followed by the King's Coronation (24 percent) in third place.

The Children's Word of the Year has been running since 2014 and the report explores the events that influence children’s choice of words and provides valuable insights about patterns in children’s use and awareness of language over time. In particular, this report highlights children’s awareness of current affairs.

We spoke to Holly Zoccolan, Parenting Expert and Founder of The Carol App, for her tips on how to ease climate anxiety in children. Her advice for parents is for them to "stay informed and be a role model in environmental practices." She explained, "Demonstrating daily eco-friendly habits, like recycling or conserving energy, can show children practical ways to make a difference. Also, parents should acknowledge their own feelings about climate change and manage them effectively, as children often pick up on parental anxieties. Providing a hopeful but realistic perspective is key to helping children feel more secure about the future."

Holly Zoccolan
Holly Zoccolan

Holly is an entrepreneur and founder of the new parenting app Carol. She studied law at Newcastle University before completing her Nutrition studies at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and then founding the Carol app - an app which connects and supports mums. 

Zoe's top 5 tips for easing climate change anxiety in children

  1. Open and age-appropriate discussions - encourage open conversations about climate change, ensuring the information is age-appropriate. Young children need simple, clear messages that reassure them, while older children can handle more complex discussions. Emphasise that scientists and leaders are working on solutions.
  2. Focus on positive actions - highlight the positive actions being taken globally and locally. This can be anything from renewable energy advancements to community recycling programs. Encourage your child to get involved in environmentally friendly activities, fostering a sense of empowerment and control.
  3. Educate through activities - engage in educational activities that are fun and informative. For example, planting a garden teaches about the environment and how taking care of it can make a difference. It's also a calming, hands-on activity that can distract from anxiety.
  4. Limit exposure to distressing news - monitor and limit exposure to distressing news stories about climate change, especially for younger children. News reports can often be alarming and might not provide the hopeful or proactive angle that can help mitigate anxiety.
  5. Promote a connection with nature - encourage a strong connection with nature. Activities like walking, or beach clean-ups can help children appreciate the beauty of the environment, understanding what they are helping to protect. This can also provide a tranquil environment for discussing their fears and concerns.

We also spoke to Pamela Li, Editor-in-Chief and expert at parenting wellness brand Parenting for Brain who shares her tips.

Pamela Li
Pamela Li

Pamela Li is a writer and parenting specialist covering parenting and psychology research. She founded Parenting For Brain in 2017 to share evidence-based parenting and child development information she has learned. She uses evidence-based empirical research and neuroscience studies to help parents promote their children’s brain development to reach the best possible outcomes.

Pamela's 5 tips for easing climate change anxiety in children

  1. Validate their feelings - let them know it's understandable to feel worried about climate change. Avoid dismissing or minimising their concerns because the more parents try to diminish these emotions, the more overwhelming they can seem to children.
  2. Create a safe space for conversation - encourage open discussions about climate change and listen to your child’s concerns without judgment. Help them feel heard and understood.
  3. Focus on the positives - highlight the progress, like the growth of renewable energy and electric vehicles. Emphasise how many people are dedicated to making the world better.
  4. Give reassurance, perspective and hope - remind them that climate change is a big problem, but many adults are committed to solving it. Kids don't have to carry the world's weight on their shoulders.
  5. Empower them through action - kids feel empowered when they can take action. Encourage your child to get involved in environmentally friendly activities, such as recycling, planting trees and conserving water. Older children can write letters to leaders or start a sustainability club in school.

Children's word of the year

  • 2023: Climate change
  • 2022: Queen
  • 2021: Anxiety
  • 2000: Coronavirus
  • 2019: Brexit
  • 2018: Plastic
  • 2017: Trump
  • 2016: Refugee
  • 2015: #hashtag
  • 2014: Minion

Meanwhile Amanda Jenner, Parenting Expert and Founder of My Carry Potty, said, "If your child comes to you with worries over climate change it's so important we take some steps to try and put them at ease, as it's all over the press news TV schools so this is something we are seeing more of even at a young age."

She also suggested a few ways to overcome this, "The first thing we need to do is listen to what they have to say and their thoughts about a particular issue that is bothering them. This could be something they have heard or covered in school so let them express their concerns so they get it off their chest which helps tremendously.

"Take baby steps not big ones in doing things around the home which will make them feel they are helping the environment like recycling, using paper cups paper straws, but don't over do it all at once as this will increase their anxiety.  Talking about it amongst the family is a good way of showing the children that it's ok and they are safe as the unknown to a child is what can make these issues worse. 

She added, "Set a chart out if things as a family of little things you can do together but also make it clear that so many people are helping change things but it does take a long time and it's the little things that count. Tick thee mall tasks off so they see progress this will make them feel empowered and that they have made a difference. Limit over exposure to negative media about climate change as this will make anxiety a lot worse, focus on the positive always. If they are exposed then always break it down or play it down to make them feel at ease."

In other family news, 'National incident' declared after measles cases soar - with some unvaccinated children forced to isolate for 3 weeks and Here's why popcorn isn't for toddlers - brave mum shares warning over 'harmless-looking' snack that can be a go-to.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)