First 30 Days Blog

12 aug

Big Changes in the Little House

MariaOrtnerHow to Talk to Your Child When Facing Tough Financial Times

By Dr. Maria Laura Ortner

We are currently in the midst of huge financial turmoil. Thousands of people all over the world are facing unemployment or otherwise seeing their sources of income decrease or disappear. This situation obviously becomes much harder to manage if you have a family and children, and most parents struggle when trying to find the best way to talk to their kids about all these issues. All too often we hear about friends or relatives losing their jobs because of the recession. The media is inundated with news of business closings, home foreclosures and budget crises. As we adults prepare ourselves to face tough times or to re-plan our future, children are often overlooked. In my practice as a psychologist I frequently hear that parents tell their children very little or nothing about their financial difficulties, or even about a job loss. I have heard parents telling their children they were on an “extended vacation,” because they could not tell them the truth. But this is a disservice to the children.

So let me share some pointers to follow if you, or someone you know, are facing tough financial times:

1- It is very important to be honest with your children and, above all, with yourself. Take a hard look at where you are and what immediate changes you need to make, while at the same time looking to see what new possibilities this situation may open for you and your family. Look at it with optimism. Who knows, maybe this could be the prod you needed to explore new opportunities?

2- If you don’t provide the right information, children make their own interpretations about what they perceive is going on in the family, and because they are naturally egocentric they frequently blame themselves if something is not quite right around them. They of course do this quite unconsciously.

3- Keep in mind that children are usually a lot more perceptive than what we give them credit for. It is almost as if they have a secret radar that detects emotions, moods and conflicts, so you should not avoid the subject – they know when something is afoot!

4- When talking to your children, try to be as simple and concrete as possible. Tell them what is changing in your life, what is not and what you don’t know yet. Be sure to reassure them of your love.

5- Find ways to reduce your own stress. Staying calm and focused yourself is the best way to help your children, and to reduce their concerns. You need to take care of yourself FIRST so you can take care of your children. Look into mediation, yoga, breathing techniques and especially Meridian Tapping to help control your stress.

6- You may say, “Why tell my children, why should I involve them? I want to protect them and they cannot do anything about it.” Let me tell you, they are involved even if you don’t want them to be. Structuring and providing the right information is critical for their mental well being.

7- Be consistent with your messages. Children need to know that their parents are both on the same page. While you may not be able to hide your disagreements on financial matters with your partner, your children should get consistent reminders from both of you that you love them and support them.

As you navigate through this storm it is important to remember that at the end of the day, when everything is said and done, the core issues that everybody values deeply are love, honesty and support. In your journey as a parent it is helpful to keep this in mind. Big Changes in the Little House is a children’s book that offers a platform from which to begin a conversation about a difficult issue. It was written to help parents open a meaningful dialogue on a tough subject and convey to their children that they will always be loved and protected, and that as long as a home is filled with love and support, life will go on.

It is also available in Spanish.

About The Author: Dr. Maria Laura Ortner obtained her degree in clinical psychology at the Universidad Católica in her native Argentina, and later obtained a Sixth Year Professional Diploma in School Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University, in New Haven, Connecticut, and a Doctorate in Child and Youth Studies from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She currently works in Danbury, Connecticut, as a school psychologist.

She has written, produced and directed two bilingual educational films aimed at helping Latino students and their families with acculturation and special-education issues. She has also spoken in the U. S. and abroad on a variety of educational and psychological subjects.

She and her husband have three adult children and live in Brookfield, Connecticut. This is her first book.

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Posted by First 30 Days on August 12th, 2010 in Family, New Directions, Relationships | 0 comments

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