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How to talk to children and teens about their fears surrounding climate change

Here are four things to keep in mind.
/ Source: TODAY

Adults aren’t the only ones feeling anxiety over climate change.

Americans are worried as ever about climate change, separate Gallup polls reveal. However, climate grief and climate anxiety extends to children, Dr. Sudeepta Varma, a board-certified psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center, told TODAY as part of NBC's series "Climate in Crisis."

"Teens are saying they're more worried about their climate anxiety than their homework," she said. So how can parents help relieve that stress? Here are four tips:

1. Have the conversation

It’s vital that parents talk with their children about their anxieties from an age-appropriate and child-appropriate way, Varma said, so that they have a way to talk through their concerns. Some may be harboring their fears instead of opening up, so it’s important to ask them directly.

Providing a response like, "I hear what you're saying. What can we do?" is a good way to push their fears down a productive path.

2. Turn their anxiety into action

Get your children to act so that they don’t sit in their fear.

"Can you recycle? Can you help us unplug some of the devices?' Get them into action," Varma said. "'Can you bring a bag to the grocery store so we don't have to keep using plastic bags?'" (One idea: Take our One Green Thing quiz to see what one step your family can take together.)

3. Watch your behavior

“Kids are really picking up from our cues,” she said. “It’s really important for kids to feel like they’re reassured and they’re comforted that this is not happening tomorrow.” Again, focus on the actionable steps they can take.

4. Have a plan

“Preparation helps the kid feel reassured,” Varma added. Go through scenarios that they’re worried about and talk about what your family would do in those situations.

And don't be afraid to have a counseling session. Even a few cognitive behavioral therapy sessions could help.