Financial Stress and its Effect on Children
Many of the financial emergencies experienced by society revolve around how adults are affected. Losing a job, missing a mortgage payment, and trouble getting credit are predominantly considered to be problems that adults have, but what effect does limited or strained finances have on children? Many pediatricians and children’s mental health advocates recommend that parents be more aware that their children may also be suffering the consequences of their family’s financial woes. The effects that trickle down as a result of a financial crisis can manifest in children as excessive fear, unwarranted anxiety, depression, and many other debilitating symptoms.
Children are not at risk for being laid off because they don’t have jobs, but even though they don’t pay bills or maintain a certain debt to income ratio, it doesn’t stop them from suffering under the weight of financial stress and strain. Children assume the fear of losing the family home and the trepidation of getting the bills paid on time as they observe their parents struggling to stay in the black. This stress is often revealed as moody behavior, increased anger or aggression, inexplicable illness, or poor academic performance.
Diminishing the Effects of Financial Stress
Depending on their age, children may not have an accurate picture of what is really going on as it relates to their family’s finances. They don’t fully understand money or what it takes to manage it. Consequently, they may have a skewed view of how serious the situation is. For example, a child may fear becoming homeless when, in reality, the situation isn’t likely to escalate to that level. Here are a few suggestions for parents:
* One of the most effective strategies for putting stress to rest is talk therapy. Having age-appropriate conversations with children about financial problems will help them perceive the problem without as much exaggeration or amplification.
* Over emphasize to children regularly how much they are loved and cared for. As with any time of crisis, children need to know that the integrity of their world will remain intact. Children need to recognize and be secure in the fact that just because the family must cut back drastically on material things, there will be no shortage of love, affection or emotional support.
* Capitalize on the crisis. A financial crisis can be used as a learning experience to teach children frugality and money management skills. In addition, parents can teach children how to better care for and maintain the things they have. A financial crisis also has the potential to teach children important character-building principles like gratitude and thankfulness.
We live in an unprecedented time of pressure, stress, and strain – financial and otherwise. As a result, children are becoming more susceptible than ever to the generalized effects of stress and anxiety. Interestingly, many children around the world are thriving in all demographics and socio-economic situations. We can conclude that, even in the face of questionable finances, children need the emotional stability and safety that only loving parents and concerned caregivers can provide. Children will survive times of financial crisis when they know with absolute certainty that the family structure will remain solvent.