Wichita State News
Photo: Joe Kleinsasser
Maureen Dasey-Morales said the sense of confusion and uncertainty experienced by many adults after being laid off can easily be transmitted to children.

PODCAST: Layoffs are hard on parents and children

Monday, August 10, 2009

This WSU Newsline Podcast is available at http://www.wichita.edu/newslinepodcast. See the transcript below:

You’re listening to the podcast edition of the Wichita State University audio newsline. Learn more about WSU — the home of Thinkers, Doers, Movers and Shockers — on the Web at wichita.edu.

Being laid off is hard enough. But the sense of confusion and uncertainty experienced by many adults after being laid off can easily be transmitted to children. Wichita State University psychologist Maureen Dasey-Morales says parents who are laid off often struggle with guilt.

Dasey-Morales: "A lot of people who are struggling with an economic downturn in their family struggle with guilt about not being able to give their kids as much as they did before, not being able to buy as much. So it's really important that parents try to work on their own guilt and know that their worth to their kid is not monetary, it's not what they can buy them."

Adults need to help children feel in control and reassure them, even if they themselves feel vulnerable or angry, as Dasey-Morales explains.

Dasey-Morales: "Kids really need most from their parents during these times — reassurance that everything is going to be okay. And a parent can't do that if they're not feeling that the same way. So it's important to find their own supports and their own outlets for their worries so that they don't overload their kids or have that be the topic of every conversation."

And while adults may understand that the family budget is very tight, Dasey-Morales says don't be surprised if children still ask for things.

Dasey-Morales: "It's extremely normal for a kid to continue asking for things or to buy things or do things, even after they've been told that the family can't afford as much as they used to. So it's important to know that that's normal and to not label the kid as bad or difficult because they continue to ask for things."

In fact, Dasey-Morales says, even in the midst of hardships, parents can teach some valuable lessons to their children.

Dasey-Morales: "There's a silver lining that often we don't see in a downturn, and that is that kids can really learn about saving money, about finding fun things to do and being together as a family without spending a lot of money."

While it may be tempting for parents to clam up and keep information from their children, Dasey-Morales says it's important that kids know the truth about the family situation.

Dasey-Morales: "Kids are amazing little truth radar detectors, so it's important that they know the truth and know that there's been a change in the finances in the family, but they also need to be reassured. So it's important to find that balance between protecting the child from too much information and letting them know that there have been some changes going on."

However, the amount of information you give your children is largely dictated by their age.

Dasey-Morales: "Let your child's age and their developmental stage be your guide for how much information you give. Obviously younger kids won't understand all the financial information, so they really just need to know that everything's going to be okay and that mom and dad or grandma and grandpa will take care of them. Older kids can handle more information, but let their questions be your guide."

Dasey-Morales also says it's important for parents to communicate their difficult economic situation with others.

Dasey-Morales: "Also try to communicate with the avenues that your family is involved in — schools, doctor's offices, athletic teams. Let them know that your status has changed and that times are tough right now. It's hard to do because people are proud, but a lot of these places will have resources and will find ways to help, so that the kids can continue to get what they need."

The National Association of School Psychologists suggest that parents take time for themselves and try to deal with their own reactions to the situation as well as possible.

Parents will be better able to help their children if they are coping well. If parents are anxious or upset, their children are more likely to be so as well.

Talk to other adults such as family, friends, faith leaders or a counselor. It is important for parents not to dwell on worries by themselves.

Thanks for listening. Until next time, this is Joe Kleinsasser for Wichita State University.

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Created on Monday, August 10, 2009; Last modified on Wednesday, October 28, 2009