A few days ago the kids heard me talk with some anxiety about the new economic realities facing so many families, including us. I didn't mean to alarm the kids, but apparently I did. Woody in particular become concerned and asked some questions about what it all might mean to him and to us.
Woody wasn't looking for details about how or why or what. He was looking for generalizations he could understand; he was looking for reassurance that we'll be okay.
When I was laid off last year, I spent the first day or so in something of a stunned haze, mentally trying to figure out how we'd juggle things for 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months, or how ever long it would be until my employment was consistent again. In my quiet panic, I neglected to think how the kids would interpret bits I was saying. They became very concerned about our general state of being. They offered to give up allowance, sell things, and so on.
When I sort of "came to" and started putting together a job search plan, I realized I need to talk to the kids to reassure them and let them know how my unemployment would affect them in the short-term and possible longer term. I kept it simple. We talked about ways we could economize, and tried to change the focus to working together as a team to get through a temporary (I hoped) situation. Mostly, I reassured them that we'd be okay. While not a pleasant experience, we'd get through it, we'd figure it out. It's not like not figuring it out was even a choice!
Once we had our talk, I reminded myself to think about what I was conveying to the kids on a regular basis. I knew as a parent I needed to lead by example - I needed, for their sake, to project confidence and calm. Freak outs would need to be reserved for well after their bedtimes.
A need to know basis - and a teachable moment or two
No matter who you are, the current economic crisis is affecting you. It is. It's affecting your kids, too. Even if you haven't made changes at home or in how you live, the general environment of anxiety does rub off on the kids. They feel the stress, they hear snippets of new, they wonder what is going to happen.
We, as parents, don't have all the answers. We don't know how everything will work out and when it will get better. We can talk to our kids about how the choices we make can help in tough situations, financial or otherwise. We can reassure our kids. We can understand and address their concerns. And we can do it with love.
If - well, when things change in the current economic climate, we'll let the kids know what needs to happen and how on a need-to-know basis. They don't need to know details about bank accounts or the like. They do need to know what won't change: that we'll make it all work as a family, for our family.