As millions of American families continue to struggle despite the official end of the "Great Recession", it is important to remember that children of parents who are dealing with difficult issues easily recognize financial stress.
If you are like many Americans, you may have lost your job, have fallen behind on mortgage payments or struggle to pay increasing credit card debt. Whatever the case, your children are likely listening in on your conversations with your family, your lenders, and even your debt collectors. This is likely true even when you think they are not listening.
Teachers and Counselors See Signs of Stress in Children
Guidance counselors at schools throughout the country have found that children are affected by financial stress at home much the same way that adults are. Children are often unable to voice their concerns, which often range from having to switch schools, not having enough to eat and becoming homeless as a result of losing their home. Even when parents are extra vigilant about not discussing financial issues in front of the kids, children often notice a decline in vacations or extracurricular activities and attribute the decline to money problems, researchers say.
The symptoms that children face are not often different than symptoms that adults experience when they are struggling with financial issues. The symptoms of stress in children often include:
- Separation anxiety
- Bed wetting
- Uncharacteristically poor behavior at home or at school
- Obsessive behavior
While parents can be extra cautious about expressing their anxiety or financial concerns in front of their children, sometimes the best solution is to discuss the situation honestly with the children. Parents can explain what may happen as a result of a financial event, such as a job loss or home foreclosure, and answer a child's questions about the future to alleviate his or her fears.
For some parents struggling with overwhelming debt, filing for bankruptcy may be the answer to reduce or eliminate debt and allow the parents to have a financial fresh start or to save the home from foreclosure.