Children and parents aren’t aligned when it comes to tackling climate change, with four out of ten children (42%) saying they wish their parents or guardians would do more to live a sustainable lifestyle, according to research from Columbia Threadneedle Investments.
The poll of 1,113 parents and their children (aged 6-16 years) shows that children believe their parents and guardians could be kinder to the planet by being more stringent with recycling (60%), picking up litter when they’re out and about (51%) and walking or cycling more (50%). Some young people would like to see their parents invest in an electric car (43%), while four out of ten (40%) would like to see their mum, dad or guardian buy fewer clothes.
Around a third (30%) of children think their parent or guardian should be doing more to educate themselves on what they can do to make a positive impact on the planet.
Children are engaged with climate change
It is clear from the findings that a large proportion of children in Britain are engaging with the climate emergency and the need to become more sustainable. In fact, so much so, that one in two (46%) children think climate change is one of the most important issues we should be helping to curb, alongside conflict (48%), world hunger (42%) and bullying (40%).
Figure 1: Issues children want to tackle
While an impressive seven out of ten (70%) 6 to 16 year olds feel proud of their own efforts to live sustainably, many of this age group (78%) think they could do even more to reduce their negative impact on the environment.
It can be good to talk
Children may want to discuss important issues, such as climate change, around the dinner table, as four out of ten (37%) 6 to 16 year olds want their mum, dad or guardian to open up and talk to them about what they can do to help the environment (37%).
However, 59% of parents say they don’t discuss climate change with their children. While one in four (29%) say they don’t know enough about this topic to be able to educate their children about it, a quarter (28%) say they don’t need to as their children are probably learning about it elsewhere.
Some parents are concerned talking about this issue will make their children worry (25%) or scare them (21%).
Parents who are open to talking to their children about living sustainably or making a positive impact on the planet believe the perfect age to do so is around 7 years old, on average. However, one in ten (11%) parents/guardians have started to discussing these important issues with their children who are under 3 years old.
Speaking on the findings, Ross Duncton, Head of EMEA Marketing, Columbia Threadneedle Investments said: “It is great to see so many young people engaged with the idea of living sustainably. As parents, we often want to shelter our children but this study shows that a lot of young people recognise the role they can play in tackling climate change, and they want to speak to their parents about what they can be doing to have a positive impact.
“One in five (21%) parents do not want to discuss climate change with their children for fear of scaring them. But, if done with engaging, digestible information or tangible tasks the idea can be less daunting. Getting children out and about and exposing them to nature is one way of improving respect for natural habitats, while websites such as UNICEF’s parental guidance portal can inspire further ideas on how to teach children about climate issues.
“Our research shows that two in five (41%) parents are either investing sustainably or planning to on behalf of their child. Given appetite amongst children to talk about climate change, we hope this study encourages parents to broach the subject of how savings can support causes that are important to their children, particularly if they are older and more likely to grasp the concept of investing for good.”