How Can I Keep Economic Conditions from Negatively Impacting My Child?

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Back in January, the Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse reported its findings in the “Archives of General Psychiatry” that economic conditions at birth are linked to behavior later in life—going so far as to say that poor economic conditions at birth can be linked to juvenile delinquency. Really? My common sense tells me this cannot be the whole story. If that were the case there would be a bunch of 73 to 83 year old criminals running around.

Clearly, I misread “economic conditions” to be more all-encompassing. It seems that families who struggle with unemployment and other economic issues when their children are young are more likely to raise children who have substance abuse problems and other issues during their adolescent years. Apparently, even a small increase in local unemployment could have a negative impact later in life.

According to the study authors, “The results demonstrate a strong correlation between the unemployment rate during infancy and subsequent behavioral problems. This finding suggests that unfavorable economic conditions during infancy may create circumstances that can affect the psychological development of the infant and lead to the development of behavioral problems in adolescence,”

So, if you’re unemployed, does that mean your kids are destined for delinquency. I certainly hope not. As someone who’s unsuccessfully been through two layoffs during my son’s five years of life, and one since my three-year-old was born, I again say that I hope not.

I think as parents it’s important to see layoffs and unemployment as an opportunity. It gives you the chance to show your children positive ways to deal with hiccups that they may encounter in life. Children learn from the examples we set for them. I hope my children are learning some positive things from me right now. My entire department was cut at work a week ago. I didn’t curl up in a ball and disappear. I didn’t pick up a bottle of liquor and drown my sorrows. I did what I feel is the best thing I could do. I dealt with it in a positive way.

How do you deal with a lay-off in a positive way, though? How do you show your kids that this is not the end, but rather another detour in life? I first took care of business. I made sure I had a nursery school lined up for my son to get him through the rest of the year, since daycare was now out of our price range, and full day learning wasn’t necessary. I also worked quickly, making phone calls to explain my situation so I could get my daughter enrolled in a nursery school program for September. Things work far in advance where we live. Once those things were taken care of, I could relax a little.

When dealing with my children, I simply explained to them that things had changed at work, so things were going to change at home. I made sure to highlight all of the positive elements of the change—like that I would be spending more time with them. I showed my children that losing your job or living in a less than ideal economic situation does not determine who we are.

As parents it’s important to remember that we are role models every single day of our lives. How we handle situations and deal with people will be passed on to our children. We must be diligent and remember to keep a positive outlook, no matter how harsh the situation may seem. Your child will certainly benefit from your attitude.

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