Children Of The Recession

Children Of The Recession
Archived Article: Trust Newsletter 05/09

community_gap_homes_2.jpg   As the recession hits full swing we are seeing ever increasing numbers of redundancies, more families scaling back to live on a single income and, more and more New Zealanders forced to live on a benefit. With many experts predicting a long period of recession and a slow recovery, these numbers are not expected to diminish in the near future.

The impact of the recession, however, extends far beyond just the strain on people’s personal pockets. Job losses are having significant social repercussions – and these are ultimately felt most strongly by our most
vulnerable citizens – our children.

An article by Ariel Kalil “Unemployment and job dis- placement: The impact on families and children” in the July/August 2005 Ivey Business Journal highlighted the wide-ranging impact of job losses on the well-being of children.

The impact of a parent’s job loss on children can range from the obvious – reduced access to economic re- sources – food, housing, schooling and health opportunities – through to de- creased warmth and emotional engagement from psychologically stressed parents – and even longer range impacts like lowered school achievements, lowered future job expectations, work ethics, and an inability to cope with stress as adults. These negative consequences are enormous. According to Kalil, an increased reliance on welfare is associated with lowered school achievements, and the often erratic or disengaged behaviour of parents under psychological stress, can lead to poorer adjustment in children.

He also says that “children’s observations of their parent’s work experiences can shape their own view of future economic opportunities...[and] children's pessimistic perceptions of their parents' labour market experiences could diminish motivation and lead to behaviours such as disengagement from school or work.” A large part of a parent’s ability to minimise the damage their job loss will have on their children will come down to communication.

Often children are unaware of why there has been a dramatic change in their living circumstances and if they are aware they can quickly end up absorbing and reflecting their parent’s attitudes through their peformance at school, their own expectations in life, and later, the way they cope with stressful times in their own life.

Janet Bodnar, author of Dollars & Sense for Kids offers some practical advice for helping children adjust to the reduced economic circumstances. She says parents should be straight up with their children - but also reassuring. We encourage parents to make sure their children are made aware of the economic realities within their household and explain why things have to change in order for bills to be paid for on time and food to be put on the table. It is important for families to maintain a positive outlook on these negative circumstances. Kalil states that parents own interpretation of job loss and unemployment experiences can serve as positive role models for their children's attitudes and behaviours.

Parents must learn new tricks to make ends meet and children need to under- stand why they have to go without their luxuries for a period of time – but they also need to be taught that there are other things of value in life – and a simple hug can have a much greater impact than an outing to Rainbows End.

There could be a silver lining as the culture of consumerism within most of us comes to a slow halt, allowing many of us to reconsider what is really important in life; the value of family, a helping hand when needed, kind words and laughter, and the hope of a brighter future when times get tough.
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