by Dana George | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on June 17, 2020
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If you're having a hard time making ends meet, you may wonder what to tell your children. Learn what to say to your children, and how to say it.
With millions of Americans out of work due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, more Americans than ever are depending on unemployment benefits, loan payment assistance, and forgiving landlords to get through the month. It may be years before the total financial cost is calculated, and the emotional tally may never be known.
How do you tell your kids that you don't have enough money for necessities, much less anything extra? How do you share the truth without frightening them? Finally, is it possible to use this experience to help your children grow up into compassionate, balanced adults with a sense of what matters in life?
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Tamara Stervinou taught special education for nearly 30 years, the last 25 in Kearney, Missouri. She says that children pick up on what's going on around them. If you are stressed, chances are they know it. They don't understand why you can't sleep at night, so they jump to conclusions. What they imagine is often scarier than what is really going on. If you're wondering how to talk to your kids about financial hardship, these tips will get you started:
Whether your child has a disability, behavioral issues, or deals with anxiety, discussing financial hardship requires sensitivity. Wait to have the conversation until you can focus fully on your child. In addition, you should:
It would be a lie to say that we can put COVID-19 behind us. In fact, many of us will always remember 2020 as the year a pandemic shut down America. Our children will remember it as well. What is it that you want your kids to recall when they look back on this time? What lessons do you hope they carry with them?
Some of the most meaningful conversations we have are while we're emptying the dishwasher or folding towels. As you move through the upcoming days with your kids, casually introduce questions like these:
Stervinou is particularly concerned about parents with children at home, worried that they are not taking proper care of themselves. According to the longtime educator, how you take care of yourself directly impacts how well you can teach your kids about pandemics, finances, job loss, or any other life-altering circumstance.
"When you're overwhelmed, take a step back. If you're frustrated because you have trouble helping your child with their schoolwork, give yourself permission to do half the work," she said. "Don't put your frustration back on your child. Rather, modify what you're doing. Talk to other parents to find out how they're doing things, create or join a social support group, contact your child's teacher to ask for help. Do what you need to do to lighten the load. If you can't take care of you, how are you going to take care of your children?"
Stervinou also recommends spending time outdoors with your kids every day. Take a walk, make chalk drawings on the sidewalk, have a picnic in the driveway or on the porch, or just play a game. "Make sure you and the kids get enough physical activity. It's good for your mind and soul."
There are millions of Americans who feel adrift right now, although that reminder may offer more anxiety than comfort. The truth is, we will get through this. We may view the world in a slightly different way, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. If what you're left with after the kids are back in school and you're back to work is a greater sense that you want to control your own financial fate, start researching the ways you can do that. Until then, take this opportunity to teach your children the power of perseverance.
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