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Amid Alberta's economic downturn, children are the forgotten ones: psychologist

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DH Calgary Staff Jan 27, 2016 7:10 am

While the effects of the province’s economic downturn have impacted┬ámany people in one way or another, one child psychologist says kids are the ones who are losing out in the end.

Director of Yellow Kite Child Psychology Soraya Lakhani told Calgary Buzz when children have a connection with an adult caregiver, it’s a tremendous protective factor, and they can pick up on small cues that their parents might be feeling stressed.

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“Kids are very responsive to their parents’ emotional well-being, and so part of how things are playing out now, we’re seeing that parental stress is starting to rise as parents are more anxious about job security, job loss, and family finances,” she said.

“Children can pick up on that. Often it’s unconscious, but parents emotional availability towards their children may decrease because they have so much stress.”

Lakhani said as parents become more preoccupied with their stressors, kids can sense that disengagement and it can lead to feelings of insecurity and can impact their self-worth.

“It can leave them feeling like they don’t have anywhere to go to talk about their own emotions and their own stresses that maybe playing out in their lives.”

In the midst of the recession, Lakhani said there are a few key things for parents to remember in order to not pass their negative emotions on to their children. She said self-care is important and can be vital to their child’s wellbeing as well as their own.

“It’s often health-promoting practices that people take off their list of priorities first because they can’t afford it, but it’s really important for parents to look after themselves and insure they have emotional supports in place for themselves, whether that’s family support or counciling support.”

Lahkani adds that many councillors offer a sliding scale, so if parents are feeling financial pressure, there’s usually a way to work around it. She said if parents are looking after their own emotional wellbeing, it can make it easier for them to connect with their children.

Another thing parents can do to make their stress less burdensome for their children is to create positive rituals such as going for a walk or dinner to make sure they have that protected time where they aren’t distracted – that means no technology.

Beyond that, parents need to learn how to speak to their children about financial issues they maybe facing, since we live in an age where it’s tough to shield children from reality completely.

“Kids have access to information through peer groups, through their own interactions with technology, and so depending on the age of the child, there are definitely age-appropriate ways of talking to children such that we’re not overwhelming them with details.”

For some, though, the reality of financial hardship is tough to break down for children into easily digestible bites. Often, money troubles are manifested in very direct ways – the loss of a house or loved possessions.

“I think in those cases, parents do obviously conversation with their kids and help them understand that financial circumstances have changed and that things might be tricky,” she said.

“That parent-child relationship should never be underestimated. Even in extremely dire circumstances, if kids are connected to their parents and they communicated openly with their parents, that can be a huge protective factor for them.”

Lakhani recommends parents look up community supports such as councillors to help them navigate the best way to approach their particular situation with their children.

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DH Calgary Staff
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