Teens, Children Feel the Stress in Financial Crisis, Too

Post a Comment » Written on October 10th, 2008     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (October 10, 2008) – Adults are not the only people feeling the emotional strain of the current financial crisis. So are teens and younger children.

Increasingly, youth pastors are reporting that students are nervous about the future and are taking on the stresses of their families, says Alison Burkhardt, assistant director of the Center for Youth Ministry Studies (CYMS). “Students are wondering if they will be able to go to college. Their parents are fighting more. They’re wondering if they need a second job to help their families pay the bills.”

In addition to the emotional toll it takes, that stress can lead to behavioral issues and declining academic achievement.

To help church leaders better minister to families, CYMS has scheduled a special conference call from 2-3 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday, October 14. Participants will include Bob Auger, a licensed marriage and family therapist; Darrell Griffin, pastor of Oakdale Covenant Church in Chicago; Dean Lundgren, Evangelical Covenant Church vice-president of finance, and Joon Hwang, pastor of a non-Covenant congregation in Palatine, Illinois.

“Issues surrounding money often are not discussed enough in families.”

To participate in the call, dial 785-686-2400. Use the access code 283513. Reservations for the call are requested, but not required. The call will be recorded and retained online for two weeks.

“It has been tough,” says Griffin. “People feel like failures, and there’s the shame that also goes with it.”

That shame is connected with the effect of the foreclosures and difficult times on the family, Griffin says.  “Parents feel like they haven’t protected their kids.”

Children being forced to move also can create a sense of embarrassment. “How do you tell your friends, ‘You can’t come over to my house because we’re going to move?’ ”

According to a study by Washington D.C.-based First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy group focused on families and children, as many as two million children will be affected by the mortgage crisis. The group cautions that the number may be low because the study did not include renters who are displaced because building owners defaulted on their loans.

Issues surrounding money often are not discussed enough in families, says Auger, a licensed marriage and family therapist as well as former executive director of the Covenant Bible College-Ecuador campus.

“Parents need to take more opportunity to talk about finances,” Auger says. “Don’t ignore the problem, because kids will put their own story together.”

Parents also should be aware of how they share information. Suddenly telling teens that the family is suffering financial difficulties after having never discussed money can be disconcerting.

Parents should be honest, however. “If you or your spouse have lost a job or are at risk of losing your house, don’t lie,” Lawrence Balter, professor of applied psychology at New York University, said in a recent news report. “Explain to your kids what the game plan is, so they have a sense it’s not just random and chaotic, that there is something that can be done.”

Kids don’t have to know all the financial details, but should be told enough to have a proper understanding of the situation, Auger adds.

“It is important not to be an alarmist . . . let children know their basic needs will be met.”

Parents also should consider how much their children can handle emotionally. “There are kids who feel their parents’ burden,” Auger says.

Auger cautions, “It is important not to be an alarmist.” Parents can let children know their basic needs will be met.

Unless a family truly is going to be left homeless, families going through foreclosure or serious difficulties need to reassure their children they will have a home, although it may be smaller or in a different location, Auger says.

In her blog for Business Week magazine, Lourdes Lee Valeriano writes that parents should discuss the strategy for belt-tightening and let kids make suggestions. Parents also can make the crisis a topic of conversation. By discussing what teachers and the teens’ friends are saying, parents can get a better sense of their own children’s emotions.

Although teens should be aware of the financial situation, parents also should limit the amount of 24/7 news coverage in their home, Valeriano adds. “We want our kids to be informed, not scared to death. This is good advice not only for our teens, but for us if we want to get a good night’s sleep.”

Parents also need to be aware of their own stress and how it may be leading to increased irritability or fighting, Auger says. “Parents may not even realize that’s where the stress is coming from.”

Auger says the current crisis also can be a reminder of an important spiritual truth: “It breaks the illusion of the control we think we have.”

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