British Columbia·Parental Guidance

From housing crisis to climate crisis, the future looks uncertain for our kids. How do we prepare them for it?

With a pandemic, one environmental disaster after another and war in Europe, it's been hard to find hope or to imagine what the world will look like as our children grow up. 

Kids should be prepared to find silver linings in the dark clouds around us and take small steps toward change

After a rocky few years, the future seems even more uncertain for our kids. (Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

This story is part of Amy Bell's Parental Guidance column, which airs on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.


I think at this point we could all use a handbook to navigate the current state of the world.

Something like Parenting Through an Endless Nightmare. Or maybe Dystopian Parenting 101

With a pandemic, one environmental disaster after another and war in Europe, it's been hard to find hope or to imagine what the world will look like as our children grow up. 

Those fears are also increasingly including one of our basic needs: shelter. 

There has always been the expectation that our kids will move out and find a place of their own. But in light of the growing difficulty in finding or affording a home, is that expectation becoming more unrealistic? 

In many ways, yes.

Carmen Lansdowne, who works in the field of affordable housing with the First United Church Social Housing Society, is aware of the irony that her own family is facing eviction from its current North Vancouver home, and is struggling to find a suitable new place within budget.

Her kids are no strangers to moving — as renters the family has faced many upheavals. It's prompted her to speak openly to them about the economy and how our current views of housing need to change.

"The capitalist system is broken in the way we are trying to extract profits from housing, which is not considered productive economic growth," says Lansdowne, an Indigenous scholar.

"You look at how much of our economy is based on this unproductive economic growth and something's gotta give." 

'The way we work and live is changing'

Lower Mainland real estate agent Al Krueger agrees that our mindset toward housing has to shift.

There's always going to be the transfer of generational wealth for those lucky enough to own properties. But that's not a reality for many, so Krueger says we'll continue to see a shift toward building around transit hubs, where smaller, more inclusive communities will thrive.

Parks, shared amenities and a greater supply of smaller apartments or townhomes will help to balance supply and demand, he says — but so will leaving heavily populated and overpriced areas like the Lower Mainland altogether. 

"One good thing about the pandemic is it showed a lot of people can work from home. And that home might be downtown Vancouver ... it might be Prince George," says Krueger. 

"Wherever they end up going, the world is changing and the way we work and live is changing, too."

Generations share the blame

Taking a broader view beyond housing, parents have of course always worried about everything from the black plague to black holes. What's so different now?

Vancouver dad Alex Dove is aware his nine-year-old son might inherit a world far more difficult to navigate than the ones before.

He says it's the cumulative effect of so many generations taking more than they gave that has left a very bleak reality for our kids. 

"The quality of life will diminish if we don't do anything about it," says Dove.

He has been encouraging his son to ask questions about what is happening in the world and find people in his community that can help make small changes. 

"There are ways for kids and folks to be engaged and to make the changes so that their community can have a better way of life," he says.

Prepare for the unknown

So how can we encourage kids to not get discouraged?

They need to understand exactly what is happening in the world around them. And that means honestly describing all global concerns and guiding them to be involved and proactive. The reality is that kids need to be working toward the future now. 

Diamond Isinger, B.C. provincial commissioner for the Girl Guides of Canada, says she sees how the most proactive kids are the ones most prepared — "the ones who are looking at the social issues, the environmental issues, the others around them and saying, 'I know what steps I want to to take to shape a better future.'"

Isinger stresses the importance of preparing our children for any future. 

"Here's the thing, we don't actually know what all the problems of the future actually are, so it's not that helpful to teach kids today about a specific set of problems," she says. 

"But if we give them a toolbox, in terms of how to analyze problems and take action ... that has a far more lasting impact in their lives." 

Nothing in life is guaranteed. A lot of families already know this all too well. The lives we've led for generations have had far reaching and devastating effects on our planet and everything that calls it home.

But here's the strange thing about the human race: Sometimes it takes living through truly dark times for us to finally realize we have no choice but to make dramatic changes. And I think we are actually at that point.

So no, I don't have a crystal ball, but I do have hope that as dismal as today might seem, there can be brighter tomorrows for future generations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Bell is a digital contributor to CBC. She can be heard weekdays on The Early Edition as the traffic and weather reporter and parenting columnist.

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