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Coping with Economic Insecurity

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Dear Elizabeth,
My family has really been struggling financially since my husband lost his job. We’ve had to move to a smaller apartment & make many other changes. Can you give us any advice for getting our kids through the difficult times ahead?
Maritza Klein
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
Host
  • Talk to your child at his level of understanding
  • Maintain a normal routine
  • Spend time together as a family
  • Keep communication open
  • Reassure him that you will take care of him
Expert Advice
Dr. Charles Sophy
Dr. Charles Sophy
Child Psychiatrist
Economic insecurity can have a ripple effect. It starts with the parents and ripples out to the entire family. Be aware of yourselves. Talk in private with each other, but remember to provide your child with an outlet so he can express himself.

When the parents are stressed about finances, then children often feel that stress and become stressed themselves. You can see the signs of stress in children in many ways – sleep changes, appetite changes, and behavioral changes. Older children might also have their school work affected.

Remember, in tight financial times, parents might have to pull back on some activities so some of their children’s social lives may be affected. Try to supplement those missing activities with family group activities. Get back to basics. If you can't afford the tennis lesson or the karate lesson, then do a family hike, make a family meal, or have a family movie night at home. You shouldn’t take away everything. You’re pulling and giving -- working together as a family team to still function.

Talking about finances with your children can be a tough conversation to have. It depends upon the age of your child, but age-appropriate honesty is the key. Sit them down, but first be clear of how you as parents and as a family want to function. Have a plan. What is in your budget? Maybe you can go out to eat once a week or once a month, and movies twice a month or whatever it is you decide together. Give your children real information and involve them in the discussion. Maybe one child can pick one restaurant, then the other child can pick what movie you rent. Be clear about what you are able to do so they can be part of it and feel ownership in the process. It’s all about age-appropriate honesty.

Difficult financial times can impact a young child’s development when the stuff at home isn't worked out. If things are unsettled in a child’s home life, then you might see behaviors in school where that child will act out, hindering their development. It's best to get everything worked out at home, keeping life as stable as you can, and always being age-appropriate honest with your child. Children’s development should not be affected if you do these things.

Keeping a child's routine consistent is very important. Give your children the predictability of structure. You're not only giving them the confidence of predictability and the safety of those relationships that means something to them, but you're also giving them the power that they have over their lives. Just because a few things in life may change, that doesn’t mean that everything needs to change everywhere. But you always need to be open and honest with them and explain what things might need to change at the end of the school year. Give an open and honest answer.

Reassurance is safety. Children need to feel that you are in control and that you will keep them safe – no matter what – to the best of your ability. So remember to keep check of yourself and get the support and empowerment you need, whether it’s from yourself, your partner, your friends, or your community.
Child Care Provider Comments
Cy Sharp
Cy Sharp
Mother of 2 1/2 year old
Tawala and I have a 2 ½ -year-old son. We were doing well. Then my husband was laid off last April from his job managing a radio station. Our family had to move out of our two-bedroom apartment and move in with my mother-in-law.

Because of all the changes going on my son started acting out. He gets out of his bed and comes in bed with us and he has started to hit me. I asked at school if he was showing aggression and he was. At our old home, he would respect the structure. Now, he is so wired up because he is at grandma’s house, so he thinks it is playtime all the time. It is harder to get him to eat and sleep.

We still go to fun things that our son enjoys. We go to Travel Town which is free – it’s a train yard where you can go and look at trains. We do play-dates with other kids outside of school. If it is within our means to support him, then we do. We take him to the Children’s Museum. My mother-in-law got us a membership. We also have fun at the park, which is always free.
Tawala Sharp
Tawala Sharp
Father of 2 1/2 year old
The only time that we discuss our financial situation with our son is when he thinks that we are heading home. He doesn’t consider Grandma’s house home. Grandma’s house is grandma’s house… and he keeps asking, “When are we going home?” It seems like we have been here long enough, but he is firm on it not being home. I just try to make sure that he is happy. I had a conversation with him the other day when he was having a tantrum. Tantrums for him are rare. I just make sure to sit down & say that if he is not happy or something is wrong that he can tell me.

My wife does the best job of maintaining a routine with our son. We try to make sure that he gets up, eats, and goes to bed at the same time. I try to get him to the park to exercise and run around. In general, I try to spend as much time with him as I can. Sixty percent of my activities on a Saturday are playing with my son. We definitely love the child care program that he is in. He really likes it and his friends are there. One thing that my wife was not willing to change was his child care. That definitely helps with his routine.
Tamanika Ivie
Tamanika Ivie
Grandmother of 2 1/2 year old
When my grandson first moved in, he became much more aggressive. His day care suggested it was the move. I think it was less the move than the stress he was picking up from his parents. He has remained in the same child care. His parents went out of their way to lessen the impact by keeping that the same. He was a sweet gentle child, but he started acting different and throwing things. He was seriously throwing things - almost with the intention of hitting you. Cy and Tawala don’t argue in front of him, but I am sure that he can feel the tension. The aggressiveness was permeating his personality. His aggressiveness is getting better. He doesn’t call this home his home; he calls it Grandma’s house. I try to explain to him that this is his home, too, but he keeps saying it’s Grandma’s house.

Calming pillows Featured Activity:
Calming pillows
Economic Uncertainty Featured Video:
Economic Uncertainty
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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Tantrums
Resources
Career Planning - Job Loss
About Our Kids - Talking About Job Loss
The Unemployment Survival Guide by Jim Stringham & David R Workman
My Daddy Lost His Job and I Gotta Help Him Find It! by Robin Walters
The Secret Meaning of Money: How to Prevent Financial Problems from Destroying Our Most Intimate Relationships by Cloe Madanes & Claudio Madanes
 
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