Editorial – Economic downturn impacts kids, tooStressed over the economy? Worried how you will pay all your bills? Anxious over cutting your family’s budget? If you think you’re between a rock and hard place these days, consider your children. They’re feeling the effects, too.
Stressed over the economy?
Worried how you will pay all your bills?
Anxious over cutting your family’s budget?
If you think you’re between a rock and hard place these days, consider your children. They’re feeling the effects, too.
One nationwide poll last fall revealed that 75 percent of 12 to 17 year olds who said their parents are worried about the economy also said they were worried about, themselves.
As painful as the bad economy may be, many children, especially the younger ones, don’t have a clue what is wrong. They don’t understand why mom or dad is so worried lately. They don’t know why the treats they routinely received a few months ago are now few and far between. They’re confused why their parents are bickering with each other over the bills.
Stephen Wallace, chief executive officer of Students Against Detructive Decisions (SADD) wrote in an opinion piece last week that the economy – and its impact on families – is the proverbial elephant in the room. No one wants to talk to their kids about it even though it’s having a big impact.
Remaining silent, however, may do more harm than good, Wallace said. He noted that children, especially teens, tend to experience more anxiety when obvious “financial stresssors” are left unaddressed.
And when children take on more stress, problems often surface. Their decision-making skills suffer. According to SADD research, young people who are stressed are more likely than less-stressed teens to drink alcohol (40 percent to 29 percent) or use marijuana (19 percent to 13 percent).
Wallace pointed out that open, honest dialogue, calibrated for age, about financial challenges and choices can make children feel safer, more confident and more empowered to weather an economic downturn. In fact, one survey showed that many young people, 47 percent, said they would like to talk to their parents more about economic issues.
So how should parents who are going through tough financial times talk to children? The Minnesota Extension Service offered the following tips:
•Help your children best by helping yourself first. Try to get a handle on your own stress.
•Provide your children with information about the family’s situation in a way that is age appropriate. Do not keep an income loss a secret from children, despite the urge to spare them.
•Recognize symptoms of stress that may affect your children, including sleeplessness, diarrhea, withdrawal, headaches or angry outbursts. Parents who do not feel they are effective in helping their children are encouraged to talk to the children’s teachers, school psychologist, clergy member or mental health professional.
•Eat balanced meals, get adequate rest and get plenty of exercise to guard against health problems.
•Try to keep other major changes at a minimum. Too many changes at once can be overwhelming. However, some changes, such as a move, may be unavoidable.
•Help your children focus on the positive aspects of their lives.
•Hold a family discussion on how the income loss affects available money for extra activities and allowances. Discuss how each person will help control family spending.
•Spend time together as a family doing low-cost or no-cost activities.
Many parents might think they’re protecting their children by not talking about the financial stress their family is under. But in big and small ways, children are likely sensing that something is wrong. Being honest and open about it, staying upbeat and positive, and dealing with it as a family is a much better approach than hoping for the elephant to magically disappear.