It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. For most people the holiday season is about spending time with family and loved ones, giving and receiving gifts and sitting down for a big family meal complete with all the fixings. But for many others, the holidays can feel more like a time of heightened stress. Many low-income people are not connected to family or their community. If they do have social connections, they may isolate themselves because they can’t afford to give gifts or prepare food to share. It can be even more difficult to get enough to eat when there is an increased demand at food banks during the holiday season. When you add kids to the mix, shame and isolation can take hold.
Low-income parents often put themselves last in order to shield their kids from poverty, and the parents’ health and well-being suffers for it. Some parents may even skip meals or prescription medications to save up enough money to buy their child a special present. But the stress of poverty can affect children. They know mama has gone without, they know papa’s working hard or is stressing. Because of this, children in poverty are more likely to be too embarrassed to reveal what they secretly wish for because they feel guilty for taking away from their family’s limited resources.
When it comes to having the tough conversations with kids about poverty, parents should always keep an open dialogue with kids and remain honest. It is suggested to act as a filter and to only allow a tiny bit of information to pass through when children are young, and explain more to them as they grow older. For example, when children are still very young, keep things simple by explaining that mommy and daddy have a budget and that they’re able to spend a certain amount on their gift. When they’re older, begin teaching them more about bills, expenses and the importance of giving back to those who are less fortunate.
Parents set the tone for how the family views their financial situation and the holiday season. Kids really do look to their parents for their attitude. One way to set a more positive tone is by redefining what the holiday season means to you. It doesn’t need to be about gifts. It’s the Salvation Army ringing the bell, it’s the highest charity donation time, it’s when we put gifts for the homeless under the Christmas tree and it is all about the idea of community. As parents we could emphasize other parts of the holiday season that remind us of the goodness of humanity.
Merry Christmas to you and here’s to wishing you a prosperous 2020. More to come……much more.