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Children Anxious Over Family Financial Stress

Children showing anxiety as nation’s financial crisis hits home
 

Across the country, as the economic squeeze is tightening on America’s families, it’s causing a ripple effect on some forgotten victims: kids.

Children are worrying about whether their parents have enough money to buy groceries — or moving in with other family members because their parents can’t pay their mortgages.

Call it trickle-down anxiety.

The effects on children are showing up at schools, where kids are complaining about stomachaches and sleep problems.

Some researchers estimate that 2 million children will be affected by the nation’s foreclosure crisis. Meanwhile, jobs are being cut, too.

Although the worries — especially housing issues — are not hitting Rochester as hard as other areas, school counselors and social workers are seeing some of the same concerns among area students. They say some children are dealing with the strain of family incomes dipping because of layoffs or other concerns. They say these concerns manifest themselves in stress and in practical concerns such as college considerations.


September 29, 2008
Children exhibit anxiety over dire financial predictions

Children showing anxiety as nation’s financial crisis hits home

Across the country, as the economic squeeze is tightening on America’s families, it’s causing a ripple effect on some forgotten victims: kids.

Children are worrying about whether their parents have enough money to buy groceries — or moving in with other family members because their parents can’t pay their mortgages.

Call it trickle-down anxiety.

The effects on children are showing up at schools, where kids are complaining about stomachaches and sleep problems.

Some researchers estimate that 2 million children will be affected by the nation’s foreclosure crisis. Meanwhile, jobs are being cut, too.

Although the worries — especially housing issues — are not hitting Rochester as hard as other areas, school counselors and social workers are seeing some of the same concerns among area students. They say some children are dealing with the strain of family incomes dipping because of layoffs or other concerns. They say these concerns manifest themselves in stress and in practical concerns such as college considerations.

In schools in some harder-hit states like Florida, the concerns are more widespread, says Aimee Jennings, who runs a school counseling program in and around Winter Park.

In one case, a fifth-grader told her school’s counselor she was worried about her parents being able to pay all the bills because they were already losing their home. “Now,” Jennings said, “she’s starting to lose focus at school, and she’s not getting her work done.”

Many children are focused on money, with high school students talking about getting jobs to help out their parents.

“We have seen an increase in the number of children and the differences in behavioral symptoms — school phobia, ADHD, more anxiety and depression in the children, not knowing what’s happening in their families,” says Jim Berko, director of Seminole (Fla.) Community Mental Health. “Obviously they’ve picked up the anxiety from their parents.”

George Schulz, a Winter Springs, Fla., psychologist, is seeing more children with sleep disorders and school phobia. Some younger patients are clingy and suddenly afraid of someone breaking into their homes. One boy is now terrified of the fire alarm at school.

Kids today already deal with more everyday stress than previous generations, Schulz says — because we’ve burdened them with too many worries.

“Parents are too open with their kids these days,” Schulz says. “Even high school kids aren’t old enough to handle that. I would not discuss the details of the family’s financial situation with any child until they’re adults. What’s the use? They’re just going to worry more.”

Steve Rhode, president of MyVesta Foundation, a financial counseling service based in North Carolina, doesn’t necessarily agree. He thinks you should be open, but not dramatic, when talking about money. For example, don’t say you’re going to lose your house if Daddy loses his job.

However, Rhode says, you should sit down in a nonconfrontational setting and lay out the situation. You might say that the family would be better served if everyone cut back and ask for ideas.

“Kids are always smarter than we give them credit for,” he says. If you don’t talk about it, “you might be saying volumes without opening your mouth. Instead of making your children guess — or ask ‘is it me?’ — you should talk about it.”

The family as a whole can start practicing more prudent financial decision-making, asking whether they really need something.

At the same time, he says, when the news is on “and full of very dire statements,” you need to explain to children what really affects them and why. The Wall Street bailout proposal, for example, is an opportunity to talk about personal finance versus the financial system and answer their questions to the best of your ability.

Linda Shrieves
© 2008 The Associated Press

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