Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Raising Children in a Recession

Real families experience normal, daily stress that a recession can intensify. Not that long ago, I was a single parent who drove an old car that consumed too much money in repairs every month. Frequently, it was difficult to focus on parenting. Economic survival, rather than parenting, threatened to dominate my thoughts. Eventually, I returned to school, graduated, and recently reviewed the research on the relationship between economic loss and parenting. The research concluded that a recession does not necessarily impair parenting skills, but economic losses are associated with reduced discretionary spending, on expensive toys, vacations, and private schools.

Children may challenge such decisions, stimulating parental reactions of inadequacy, frustration, and defensiveness. Similarly, anxiety and depression concerning economic loss can distract parents from focusing on child rearing. The research further suggests that, if spouses are similarly stressed, more regular support from friendships or a professional can bolster parenting skills by improving the parent’s capacity to focus on childrearing.

Remarkably, emotional support was regarded as more beneficial than free groceries or child care. At times, my adult son has reminded me of our lean times by reflecting upon our progress. I reacted defensively until I realized that he had recalled his own resilient spirit. Our children may whine for expensive toys, while we promote their frustration tolerance and creativity by attending to their emotional needs, rather than their whims.

Childrearing in a recession requires the pursuit of a vision of the future without the immediate gratification provided by child approval or the economic guarantees typically provided by society. However, by prioritizing and adhering to our goals, we actualize our dreams. A resilient spirit is priceless, or so many children may realize by following their parents’ example.

Dr. Marilyn Katell

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