27 October 2009

Recession’s Toll On Very Young Children: How Can Parents Promote Optimal Development During Times of Financial Strain?

Counselors, educational analysts and school therapists report seeing an increasing number of children dealing with strain and pressure as a result of their parents’ recession-related monetary issues. A perception of disaster can create profound unhappiness or worry, particularly if families unleash their distress or exasperation, argue about finances, or change housing arrangements and/or school districts (Brody, 2009).

Three out of four parents state that the economic downturn has increased tension in their household, and a third report that their children have demonstrated apprehension or agitation about the economy, according to a current U.S. study by Wakefield Research. Approximately twenty percent of children will develop a mental health issue at some point during the lifespan, and financial hardship could provoke a concealed anxiety issue.

“We’re living in very difficult times,” said Rosalind Dorlen, the American Psychological Association’s New Jersey public education coordinator. “It would be naïve to assume kids going through this would be unaffected. Is this going to be the ‘Worried Generation’?”

Experts at the Carsey Institute suggest that children of all ages experience the ramifications of financial distress, but our youngest citizens are particularly susceptible. For children less than age six, the demands of economic deficiency include insufficient health, decreased access to high-quality educational programs, inferior cognitive and social and emotional development, and heightened parental pressure. Evidence also suggests that financial hardship is linked with a lower quality home setting and inadequate parenting methods (Poiter, 2009).

How can parents assist and help prevent the development of unneeded stress and anxiety in their youngest family members? According to Jane Burdsall of the New Jersey Association of School Psychologists, a primary step is to remember to speak calmly and without frustration to all members of the household. Young children need to feel secure, and it is crucial that parents’ remember children’s ages and developmental stages when sharing and discussing economic information. Although young children are resilient, it is important for parents to reassure infants and toddlers in order decrease tension levels and promote a secure environment.

What else can parents to do encourage optimal cognitive, social and emotional development in our youngest children during this tough economic time? We welcome your thoughts, comments, and suggestions.

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Home.


Brody, L. (2009, October 13). Recession’s toll on children: Parents aren’t the only only ones who
suffer when jobs are lost and money is tight. McClatchy/Tribune News.

Poiter, B. (2009, September 30). Recession’s impact on young child poverty uneven throughout
nation. UNH Campus Journal.

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