Connecticut Families Extra: The connection between natural disasters and your child’s mental health

Connecticut Families

(WTNH) — Hurricanes, tornadoes, and unusual blistering heat. Scientists say you can blame climate change for these natural disasters. For this week’s Connecticut Families Extra, what parents need to know about climate change concerns and kids’ mental health.

We’ve heard a lot in the last few years about natural disasters, wicked weather extremes and climate change. There is widespread acceptance that climate change poses a critical threat to our future. How much of an impact does the changing environment have on children?

Ann Sanson is an internationally-known developmental psychologist. She says previous research shows children who are exposed to sudden, extreme weather like hurricanes or wildfires can experience PTSD, depression, anxiety, and learning problems.

But long-range environmental changes, like drought, hit hard, too.

“They might be living through a drought with their family and have to be very careful with water or if they are in farms they have to sell their animals,” Ann Sanson, PhD Developmental Psychologist, University of Melbourne, Australia.

Sanson says parents should talk in age-appropriate ways about climate change, and show support for those teens who choose to take action or participate in activities to protect the planet.

“Helping children do something to address climate change is actually really good for their psychological well-being.”

Small steps that could help kids feel more empowered, despite the changing world around them.

Social scientists say with young children, it’s important for parents to create opportunities to enjoy time outside in nature so they foster an appreciation for the environment. As children age, they begin to understand how human actions impact climate change.

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