Kids and the Economy

November 25, 2008

index1Discouraging economic news is everywhere; nobody knows where the US economy is headed. These are incredibly complicated issues that few adults fully understand. How can we help our kids through these times? Whatever we can do to avoid transferring our own stress onto them is worth consideration.

Here’s my first suggestion:  Shield your kids from what’s happening.

Mitchell Rosen is a family therapist who recently posted on the importance of parents protecting kids from their own economic worries.  Here’s an excerpt:

Kids aren’t stupid; they can sense the anxiety in their parents’ voices.

What I tell the mothers and fathers is this: “If you are OK, you’re kids are going to be OK. If you panic, your kids will panic. What they need to hear is not how everything is rosy but rather they will always be provided for. They may not get an iPod for Christmas, the family home may be in foreclosure but mom and dad will make certain they have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies.” The family will be fine.

The children, however, don’t need to hear parents arguing when a bill comes or deciding which obligation to pay and which to put off. What they need to hear is that mom and dad are still in charge and they can continue being kids. Source

This makes good sense and is consistent with some advice a friend gave me last week.  Because we cannot control the stock market, we should limit the time we spend consuming bad news, following the daily ups and downs of the stock market, and tracking our own portfolios.  And he’s right.  Consumers who try to time stock market fluctuations usually sell low and buy high.

As parents, we have no control over these unfolding events, and our kids have even less.  I’m going to do whatever I can to shield my kids from the ups and downs.

Want to talk about this?  Visit Helping Kids in a Tough Economy on SchoolPulse.

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American Kids are Stressed

October 30, 2008

Yes, it’s true.  Those of you who are familiar with SchoolPulse know that we are trying to simplify life for busy families.  Our focus is on parents – including the parents who volunteer their time generously to lead extracurricular activities for their children – and we are focused on bringing some sanity to their busy schedules.

Over the past few days, I have developed a new sense of awareness of the unintended (and underappreciated) consequences on children.  Consider these experts:

  • “According to the most recent data, the lifetime prevalence for anxiety disorders as a whole in adults is about 25%; the frequency in children is unknown, but felt to be significantly underreported and under-diagnosed… What does seem to be developing in the medical literature is the consensus that many “adult” psychiatric disorders have their first (although perhaps subtle or ignored) manifestations in childhood.”  Source
  • “The combined prevalence of… anxiety disorders is higher than that of virtually all other mental disorders of childhood and adolescence (Costello et al., 1996). The 1-year prevalence in children ages 9 to 17 is 13 percent.”  Source
  • “If your child has too little free time, help him or her change his or her schedule to make time for relaxation and play… Parents may want to examine their own schedules. Often a parent’s hectic schedule will cause a child to be stressed or nervous about the things he or she is doing.”  Source

The evidence among families I know is decidedly less scientific, but no less alarming.  Over the past few days, my wife brought up the topic of childhood anxiety with four friends, and three of them (that’s 75%) revealed that one or more of their children had seen counselors for help with anxiety issues.  It’s no surprise, really.

  • Most public schools give kids 20 minutes or less to eat lunch.
  • Many kids participate in co- and extracurricular activities before and after school.
  • We are all too familiar with the challenge of assembling the whole family at meal times.
  • Weekends are a blur of sports, birthday parties, and play dates.
  • The quantity of homework heaped on students of all ages seems to increase every year

In short, our kids are constantly on the go and have very little downtime.  What they need is the opportunity to unwind, to relax, to hang around the house, to experience less structure in their lives.  Family time is highly valued because it is so scarce.  It’s a sad commentary on the age in which we live.

Until recently, I hadn’t really focused on the opportunity for SchoolPulse to improve the quality of our children’s lives, but you can be sure I will in the future.

** UPDATE ** The 10/31 Boston Globe carried an AP story saying that as many as 20% of American children and teens may be affected by anxiety disorders.