“ I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”
Tough times affect many aspects of our life. Unfortunately the present economic status of the country trickles down to the essential details of our days. Couples notice increased bickering as a result of financial stressors and parents reluctantly admit to telling kids far more than is necessary about how hard times are affecting their lives. Kids and teens share about how mom and dad don’t have the finances “anymore” to support sports activities, extra curricular events, or a weekend movie. Clearly hard times have hit most of us and are definitely affecting the way we manage our families in terms of what we can afford to do regarding “extras” and often even in relation to basics.
My main concern is the effect on our relationships – with our partners and with our kids. Sadly, I am seeing a profound negative result on families as a whole. Domestic violence is on the rise as is child abuse. There is no question that the suffering is real – however – there IS an alternative to the bickering, short tempers, and more violent responses. We can join together with our family and view this situation as the outside problem. Basically – a “we will survive” attitude – holding on to the underlying concept that relationships are simply more important than things! PEOPLE trump THINGS – without question. Become a team with each other and pull together as opposed to withdrawing or becoming isolated individuals feeling guilty for not being able to provide like you may have been able to in better times. The reality is this could provide an opportunity to become MORE family oriented - closer – by focusing on activities that could be done as a family at no or very little cost. I invite you to brainstorm with your partner, kids, friends, ways to restructure how time is spent interacting with each other and create your own list of ideas. Consider some old fashioned come together activities like board games, card games, listening to each other’s music favorites - activities that actually have you share and learn more about each other.
Whatever you come up with, keep present in your mind that young ones and even teens do NOT need to carry the burdens of the adults. Parents are the holders of the primary responsibilities around food, shelter, and basic needs. Children are not the carriers of our burdens. You can explain once and simply - the need for scaling back while reassuring everyone that all will be fine. The next step is to move to a solution focus as mentioned above eliciting ideas of alternative inexpensive or free activities. Children do not need reminders of how bad things are for the family. Keep yourself in check and if you are struggling with handling your own emotions during these tough times, seek help. Please do not make this your children’s problems. And – this also need not be the source of your relationship arguments. Here again, focus on solutions – strategize together changes that could make life run a little smoother.
In closing – as we all endure these challenging times - I wish you and yours strength and courage to come together. Finally, I invite you to phone or email me should you or someone you know need some extra support through these trying times in making life more manageable.
Debbie Bauer, LMFT
~easing life's journey~