Magazine article Work & Family Life

Tough Economic Times Can Make a Family Stronger

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Tough Economic Times Can Make a Family Stronger

Article excerpt

We are all affected in one way or another by the current economic situation. Its a time of uncertainty, and no one knows exactly what the future will bring.

Don't underestimate what your children already know or think they know. They've heard the news on TV. They may have overheard your conversations at home and other kids talking at school. They may know someone whose parents lost a job or must sell their home.

Children could be wondering if their parents are about to be laid off and the family may have to move or cut back - or if their lives will be changed in some other way for the worse.

It may sound like Pollyanna to say there can be a positive side to these events, but it's true. This can be an opportunity to teach your kids some important life lessons - for example, that we can't always get our way or have everything we want. They'll learn also about budgeting, saving, cooperation and how to be a more supportive family.

Be truthful in an age-appropriate way

Chances are, younger children will have seen and heard things that are scary. To reassure them, confirm what they think they're already observing. "You might say, for example, 'if I look a little worried or I'm not playing with you as much this week, I'm busy and trying to take care of things at work'," suggests Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan, author and child psychiatrist.

Older kids can handle more information. In fact, they may exaggerate family problems if they're kept in the dark. Being truthful is essential, both for underscoring key lessons and keeping children from panicking.

If you've lost your job or anticipate losing it, you could talk to an older child about how companies decide which employees they will keep and which ones they will let go. You might explain seniority or how the demand is less for your company's products or services. For a younger child, a simple announcement is enough.

Through ups and downs, you'll want to:

Stay calm. How you react to the country's and your personal economic problems is probably how your children will react. Try to set a good example: watch how you spend. Avoid hushed conversations, angry outbursts and fights over finances.

Maintain routines. Strive for normalcy by keeping routines intact: family dinners, homework, reading together, baths and bedtimes. Let kids know that it's still OK to be happy.

Don't blame yourself. Children from 11 to 15 are most likely to assume it was your fault if you lost your job. Have conversations in which kids can express how they feel. Emphasize that Mom or Dad didn't do anything wrong. …

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