Sue Scheff: Do Teens Understand Today’s Economy?

Layoffs Impact Christmas

Source: Connect with Kids

“It’s very, very tight at the end of the month.”

– Tom Hannaford, unemployed father

The telephone rings in Tom Hannaford’s in-home office. “Visual Solutions. Tom Hannaford,” he answers.

Hannaford is an independent contractor, but he is currently out of work.

“It’s really, really slow,” Hannaford says. “That little extra cushion that I bring in is not there, so it’s very, very tight at the end of the month.”

Hannaford has tried to shield his children from his troubles, but they still understand on a very basic level what’s happening.

“He’s looking for another job because nobody has any work for him to do,” his 9-year old daughter Mary says.

It has been a tough year for the American workforce. More than 10 million people are out of work, hundreds of thousands of them laid off since the recession began last September.

For many people, the loss of a job translates into a less plentiful holiday season.

“We’re gonna make the sacrifices that we have to make to get them some special things,” Hannaford says. “Would we get them as many things as we might otherwise? Maybe not.”

Layoffs can be stressful and scary for adults and children. Experts suggest that parents explain their job situation to their children. Open and honest communication can be reassuring. As far as the holiday season is concerned: Focus on the family, not the gifts.

“Make it exciting for them to have this time together,” advises psychiatrist Dr. John Lochridge. “Downplay the gifts … and the activities become substitutes for gifts that are actually more valuable.”

However tight times are, experts tell parents to stay positive because their children are watching and learning.

“The kids need to see that you’re not giving up. You’re gonna keep trying,” Dr. Lochridge says.

Hannaford remains hopeful. “I’ve got enough faith to know that something’s out there. Something will come my way, and the economy hopefully is gonna turn around.”

Tips for Parents

Will the recession cause Americans to spend less on their children’s presents this Christmas? According to a recent survey by the American Research Group, the answer is yes. The average projected spending for this year is $431, down just 50 percent from last year.

Unemployment is difficult for the entire family, especially during the Christmas season. A laid-off textile worker in Georgia told the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), “The thing I hated most was telling my kids that things are going to be a little tight for awhile.” If you find yourself without a job this Christmas, the AFL-CIO offers some advice to keep in mind:

Your spouse and children may feel as helpless as you do.
Talk about your problems and plans with your family.
Children generally sense tension in the home. Explain your unemployment situation to them, and include them in developing your plans to deal with it.
Plan and work together as a family to reduce household costs.
Children can help by delaying requests for expensive extras.
By working a part-time job on weekends, teens can help reduce their parents’ financial pressure. This enables each member of the family to take positive steps to help.
Receiving fewer presents at Christmas may leave some children feeling deprived and depressed. However, parents can remind their children that Christmas is not just a season of receiving; it’s also a time of giving. Children may feel better about their own situation if they focus on ways to help others who are less fortunate. Consider these ideas to help children learn about the importance of giving:

Encourage your children to choose one item from their Christmas or birthday wish lists and donate it to a less-fortunate child.
Help your children donate a portion of their allowances and birthday money to the charity of their choice.
Instead of exchanging duplicate gifts, have children donate one of the items to charity.
Organize a food drive in your neighborhood. Even small children can help deliver and collect bags.
Organize a toy, book or clothing drive.
Help your children write letters or draw pictures to mail to the elderly or others in town who are not able to get out much.
Volunteer to read to the blind.
Walk, brush, feed and clean pets at a rescue shelter.

As a family, spend some time volunteering at a food kitchen. Let children help fix plates and clear the tables.

Work together to make baked goods as a donation to a church, community or charity fair.
Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Volunteers are needed to build, paint, cook and serve food.

Visit a local nursing home and “Adopt a Grandparent.” Newborns and toddlers can come along to provide company and lots of hugs. Older children can read to residents and put on plays or skits.

References
AFL-CIO
American Research Group, Inc.
The Gallup organization

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