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Old 11th February 2010, 09:43 AM   #1 (permalink)
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When crisis blues hit kids

When crisis blues hit kids



by April Chong


Many adults hit by the recent recession are picking themselves up again as the global economy picks up steam. However, their children may not be so resilient.

For children who had to cope with, say, tighter household budgeting and lifestyle changes during the recent crisis, the after-effects could persist into adulthood, say psychologists.

Last year, a report by the Foundation For Child Development, based in the United States, said family income cutbacks during the downturn can indirectly affect children in various ways.

These include their becoming obese when parents rely on cheap meals as well as behavioural problems.

Explaining why behavioural changes might happen, psychologist and occupational therapist Yael Sasson, the director of Dynamics Therapy Centre for Kids, said: “Events such as an economic downturn have an immediate effect on parents and specifically on their emotional state.”

Job loss and pay cuts may lead to tension within the family and impact negatively on family interactions.

Usually, parents will change their spending habits and this will affect the whole household including the children. “Young children may not be able to understand the sudden change and this will, in turn, affect their behaviour,” said Ms Sasson. This is especially so when spending habits have to change and they do not understand why they cannot do the things they did before, she added.

The link between a recession and its effects on children is well known. For example, a US team of researchers from the Society For Research In Child Development did a study on more than 200 families in 1992.

They found that when there was income loss in a family and unstable jobs, parents became stressed and marital problems appeared. This led to their children becoming more depressed, hostile or anti-social.

When parents lose their jobs or take a pay cut, they can be stressed, irritable and easily frustrated. In turn, they tend to become angry, said child psychologist Frances Yeo of the Thomson Child Development Centre. In a situation like this, children bear the brunt of their parents’ change in behaviour.

Younger children below seven years of age may throw more tantrums and get irritated about small things, said Ms Yeo. This is because they do not yet have the language ability to express themselves well.

Older or more mature and sensitive children may worry for their parents. These children may not say they are worried but they can become withdrawn or want to skip school, thus affecting their academic work.

Sometimes, their mental turmoil also shows up in complaints of stomachaches or headaches, said Ms Yeo.

Aside from behavioural and developmental problems, the drop in family income may also affect the level of health care within the family.

For example, a poll done last year by an American hospital, C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, on about 1,500 families showed that four in 10 parents whose financial situation had worsened because of the recession had delayed taking their children to the doctor.

In Singapore, while child psychologists may have noticed a general change in the mood of children here last year, especially with the reduced spending, there did not seem to be a significant increase in the number of children with negative behavioural changes.

However, Ms Yeo noted that mental health professionals are not usually the first to be approached when there are such problems, unless these problems have persisted.

Many of the affected children are also not detected or referred to psychologists or counsellors, and may carry some of their problems into adulthood.

So, in a situation such as a recession, what should parents do? “It is all about how the parents respond to the situation. If the parents are stressed out, the child will be stressed as well. If the parents maintain a positive attitude, it is easier for the child to be less affected,” said Ms Sasson.

It is also important to look out for changes in the child’s behaviour which may warrant medical or psychological attention and to seek help early.

Source: http://www.divaasia.com/article/7316

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