A cyclist rides under a blanket of haze partially obscuring the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on June 8, 2023. Smoke from Canadian wildfires have shrouded the US East Coast in a record-breaking smog, forcing cities to issue air pollution warnings and thousands of Canadians to evacuate their homes. The devastating fires have displaced more than 20,000 people and scorched about 3.8 million hectares (9,390,005 acres) of land. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described this wildfire season as the country's worst ever. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: Laura Schifter is a senior fellow with the Aspen Institute and leads This Is Planet Ed, the institute’s initiative on climate change information. She is also a lecturer at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. She lives in Arlington, Virginia. The views expressed in this essay are her own. Read more opinion at CNN.

CNN  — 

End-of-year performances, class parties, teacher gifts, camp schedules, last day of school pictures: for parents across the country, the to-do lists right now are long, and they come with a mixture of emotions.

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There’s gratitude for another school year completed, but sadness in seeing your child getting yet another year older and closer to that dreaded moment when they will be moving away from home. There’s also excitement for the lazy days of summer, hearing the jingle of the ice cream truck or playing in the splash zone at the park.

This year, those feelings are further clouded by the smoggy haze that shrouded much of the Northeast this week and threw many end-of-year celebrations into flux.

On Wednesday, as usual, my second grader asked Alexa for the weather. Alexa replied, “By the way, there’s an air quality alert in effect.” I didn’t need Alexa to inform me of this; stepping outside in Washington, DC, the smoke was visible in the air, coming all the way from wildfires in Canada. I wondered if it was safe for my three children to breathe.

Over the past few days – and indeed over the past few years – I’ve noticed two new emotions have crept in: dread and guilt.

I feel dread knowing that the next few months will be marked by moments of extreme weather — around the country and the world — that will likely be unprecedented. This extreme weather, which will only get worse each year, will surely become a normal part of how children experience summer.

Will it be another heat dome over the Pacific Northwest? Flooding in KentuckyFires in California? Something in Europe or Pakistan? This summer, will extreme weather hit closer to home? We won’t know for sure what it will be or where, but we can predict that these extreme weather events are becoming more common.

I got an email from my kids’ school this past week: “Weather Notice: Code Red Air Quality.” All outdoor activities and play were canceled.

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency released a report highlighting the health impacts of climate change on children and youth: Increasing rates of asthma, worse allergies, lost learning and more risk of displacement. Poor air quality, in particular, affects child brain development and mental health.

My guilt sets in. This is the reality of our children’s lives, and we, collectively as adult humans, are responsible. Our greenhouse gas emissions — largely from burning fossil fuels for energy, transportation, manufacturing, buildings and the clearing of land for agriculture — are changing our atmosphere.

Our atmosphere acts like a heat-trapping blanket, which has created the perfect conditions for a stable environment in which humans can thrive. But we have been changing the material of that blanket from a quilt to a heavy comforter, trapping more heat and destabilizing our climate. These moments of extreme weather will become more typical, more intense and more destructive.

I grew up with an underlying assumption of what summer might entail. My children will grow up needing to process and adapt to the reality that summer might bring with it dangerous weather and the inability to play, carefree, outside.

So, what can we do? As a society, we have a responsibility to prepare our children for climate instability. And we must do our part now to reduce our emissions and adapt.

This can start at home and in our communities.

Katharine Hayhoe, a leading climate scientist suggests one of the most important things we can do about climate change: talk about it. This includes conversations with our kids.

When I picked up my daughter from preschool on Wednesday, she said, “Mommy, we didn’t have recess because of wildfires! Is it because of our Earth blanket?”

Yes. We talk about what we can do to adapt: stay inside for recess and reschedule the school’s field day. She said she noticed her teacher wearing a mask.

My second grader added, “And we can get power from the sun, compost and walk instead of drive!” We haven’t thought about this as a singular “climate change talk,” but rather as part of how we talk — how we try to help them make sense of the world. We make it a mission to always be connected to solutions.

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We can also show kids that we are working to address the problem through our actions. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provide unprecedented opportunities to advance solutions in our homes, schools and communities. The nonprofit Rewiring America created an IRA Savings Calculator, which explains how much you can save in your home with the tax credits available. A family of four in Arlington, Virginia, making $125,000 per year can save up to $7,500 off an electric vehicle, up to $2,000 for a heat pump air conditioner and 30% off rooftop solar installation, to name a few.

While not all parents can make changes in their home, most could advocate for change at their kids’ schools. The organization I lead, This Is Planet Ed at the Aspen Institute, in partnership with National Parent Teacher Association and Mothers Out Front, created an advocacy toolkit to help. Schools can get up to $40,000 off an electric school bus and potentially up to 50% off the cost of adding solar.

Driving home, my fourth grader sang a Taylor Swift song. The line “Or it’s gonna go down in flames” hit me and my stomach dropped.

The only way to prevent the dread and guilt from taking over is by taking action. For all our kids, it’s time we prioritize their future and help ensure they can thrive in a changing climate.