Meet our dynamo Community Engagement Specialist Kate Carmichael. Kate is a local therapist, the mom of twin toddlers, and an inveterate book lover.
Last year, Kate presented on behalf of the PCC about how to have climate conversations with kids at AISD’s Social Emotional Learning symposium and the Texas Children in Nature Network summit. Here, she shares her thoughts on why these “scary conversations” are so crucial for developing healthy relationships with our kids.
Why is it so important to be having more open conversations with our kids and with each other about climate change?
I believe talking about difficult topics always creates connection, empathy, and safety in relationships, especially with kids. The trick is finding a way to make these conversations helpful and age-appropriate. I think many of us parents shy away from scary conversations (sex, drugs, death, and other scary topics) for fear of making things worse for our kids. I completely understand this impulse, but I love the Thomas Hardy quote, “If a way to the better there be, it exacts a look at the worst.”
Having the courage to find healthy ways to have difficult conversations is the cornerstone of great parenting and great relationships with our kids.
How has becoming a parent influenced your relationship to the climate crisis?
Becoming a parent has influenced my relationship with nearly everything. I know it’s cliche, but it has made me see things with a new set of eyes. I have so much more motivation to be the kind of person I want my kids to become. Someone that is imperfect but keeps showing up and keeps trying. I’ve always gotten great comfort from nature, so passing on this love for the outdoors is important to me. Understanding our place in the world enriches our lives, and finding ways to make peace with climate change through awareness, activism, and big and small changes makes life more beautiful for everyone.
As caregivers, it can be hard to commit time to nurturing ourselves. What are some of your favorite ways to unwind?
One lesson I learn every day is that I can do anything; I can’t do everything. If I try to make everything perfect, I will burn out. I often fight an impulse to attend every friend’s birthday party of my kids, keep the house spotless, have laundry perfectly folded, and be available to my kids. Unfortunately, I have limited physical and emotional energy, so letting things go to keep my cup full will always be challenging.
I have found some places to escape to, which helps. Like I said earlier, being outside is a source of comfort. I like to visit the ducks at Mueller Lake Pond, which is close to my house. I also enjoy books, so Malvern Books on Guad is lovely. I also love Hiatus Spa – a place where no one can reach me for an hour while I get a massage; that is heaven.
I am still looking for daily practices to help fill my cup. I want my cup to be so overflowing I can give a lot to the people I care about most. It means letting many things go and finding the word “no” in my vocabulary when possible.
Ready to have a climate conversation with your own kids? Check out our guide.