NEWARK—If you are a parent with money worries, life can be difficult. You might need time to earn extra money, work on your finances or just unwind from a draining, demanding day. But your kids still need your attention, and they may have worries of their own. How can you parent well when times are tough?
“Children depend on their parents for security and stability, and any turmoil in the home is going to be recognized and become cause for concern,” says Tess Medina, RN, C, BSN, MAS, Administrative Director of the Behavioral Health Department at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “When parents are sad or inattentive, children sense those emotions and may feel fearful for the family’s well being and their own safety.”
Consider these steps to support your family and preserve your well-being.
• Limit kids’ exposure to worries. Try not to talk too much about your own fears when the kids are listening. You may think your five-year-old tunes out adult topics, but he may hear just enough to spark his active imagination.
• Share honestly but appropriately. Secrets can be scary. You don’t want to overwhelm your child with information, but it is best to share some of your family’s financial situation. Point out areas that are stable, such as staying in the same school despite any other changes.
• Economize in a way that’s clear and fair. If you scale back on your children’s after-school activities, let them pick from a few options to decrease their disappointment. Consider less expensive options at community centers too. Don’t forget to show kids that you are cutting back on your own “extras” as well.
• Keep predictability high. Kids like routine. Make sure your child’s includes exercise to burn off energy, soothing nighttime activities and special time with you. Children need attention and if they are not getting it in positive ways they may get it by acting out.
• Let kids contribute. Even little kids can help around the house to ease your load. They also can donate old clothes or toys to a local shelter. Helping out builds self-esteem and a child’s sense of effectiveness in the world.
• Take a breather. If you feel that your stress is affecting your ability to be kind and gentle, go off somewhere to regain your composure.
• Set aside “me” time. You are working hard at work and at home. If you don’t refuel, you will run out of steam. Get enough rest, squeeze in a little fun, and take 10 minutes to connect with friends.
• Get professional help. If you are having trouble parenting or dealing with day-to-day responsibilities–a mental health professional can help. If your child is showing signs of stress, he or she can also talk with a specialist.
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