There is no doubt, that with unemployment being so widespread families are struggling to make ends meet. There is tension among parents who are trying to keep it all together for the kids. They may be facing foreclosure or bankruptcy as a result of a job loss. Don’t think the children haven’t noticed or that they can’t feel the tension. Kids are very perceptive and they feel stress just like adults do. How do you break it to the kids that with no job and possibly no home, you don’t know what the future holds? How do you explain to kids that there is no money to take them to a movie or out to eat, or give them a birthday party? This is a tough place to be in as parents. I plan to address some of these concerns and offer some suggestions on how to talk to your kids and how to answer some of their questions so they won’t feel depressed or responsible for the family’s financial problems.
On Wed. Sept. 9, 2009, PBS TV will air a Sesame Street Special called “Families Stand Together: Feeling Secure in Tough Times,” who will enlist Elmo to offer some advice on talking to their kids about what all of this means and to reassure them that everything will be ok. I recommend this show on Wed. evening on PBS which will air at 8 PM EST. It is geared toward children aged 2-8. Sit down and watch it as a family, and use this valuable tool to help your children understand and to encourage them to open up and talk about their fears.
Families need help to diffuse the anger and dismay over their circumstances. Hopefully some of the tips shared here can help the children feel safer, and in turn relieve some of the guilt and stress of the parents.
Be open with your kids
Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. They listen. They hear the fights. Talk to them pre-emotively. Don’t wait until they are stressed out and full of fear. Be honest and use age appropriate language to explain how things are. You don’t have to provide them with every detail, but talk to them and answer their questions. If you don’t know how to answer immediately, just be honest and tell them you’ll have to think about it and that you be back with an answer at a later time. They will appreciate your honesty. They just want to feel like they are a part of the family and not alone.
Remember to use language that is age appropriate with each child
All of your children at each age need reassurance that they are safe and that they are supported. The younger the child is, the less detailed information you give. For example:
Age birth -4 –couldn’t and wouldn’t be expected to understand a financial crisis. At this age, just give them more hugs than normal and added attention. This should get them through a tough time fine.
Ages 5-9- Offer them step by step simple explanations such as “Daddy has lost his job, but he is looking for another one.” We may have to move but you will have the same friends and school and you will still have your same bed to sleep in.
Ages 10-13-understand more than the younger ones. Be positive but realistic when you talk to this age.
Try to stay as positive as possible and stay on the same routine as much as possible if you do have to foreclose and move. Try to keep their same mealtimes and bed times as much as possible. This will minimize their stress.
Involve the kids in finding solutions
All kids want to feel useful and needed, so enlist them to do chores that in the past were an expense. For example, ask them to wash the dog, wash the car, clip coupons for frequently used grocery items, gather unwanted toys and clothes to put in the family yard sale, and take them to the library for books instead of purchasing. Knowing they are doing things to help the family will make them feel empowered and in control of their circumstances. It will also teach them how to be responsible with money.
Regardless of the negative impact of the current economy, the family can grow stronger by getting through the difficulty together. Everyone will no doubt learn that other values are more important in the long run such as family, church, support of friends and love for one another.