The Family Project: Financial woes
Q. My husband and I are struggling financially. He lost his job, and my hours were cut because of downsizing at the plant. I have little patience with my children. I am yelling at them a lot. My six-year-old has been going to the school nurse with stomach aches and headaches, and I often have to pick him up at school. Then I miss even more work. What can I do?
In addressing the “What can I do?” question, panelist Denise Continenza said she would first suggest that the mother look at her resources: “What makes her feel achored: family, friends, a hobby? Does she have some outlet to help relieve some of the stress? What can she grab onto for support rather than being isolated?”
Panelist Mike Daniels suggested that mom sit down with dad and their children to acknowledge that she has been stressed out and hard on the children, and to apologize. Then the rest of the conversation could be about “What we can all do to pitch in and help?,” Daniels continued. “Once the son is involved and starts behaving in a way that feels productive, he will lose the sense of helplessness that is a huge part of his psychosomatic symptoms,” said Daniels.
“The biggest stress for kids is how their parents manage their stress,” panelist Pam Wallace said. “If the parents demonstrate that they are going through a rough time, but they are managing it, and everything is going to be OK, the children will be reassured. It is important for parents to model healthy behavior,” Wallace said.
“It only takes four seconds for mom to close her eyes and take a deep breath before yelling at the children,” Daniels said. “If she teaches the children to do it with her, it becomes a game.”
Panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo noted that the husband’s role isn’t mentioned: “He needs to be involved. How can he relieve the mother of some of her time issues?” Mercado-Arroyo suggested that the parents could benefit from counseling to help them cope with stress.
Continenza said some employers have Employee Assistance Programs where up to five free counseling sessions are provided, and the parents could also be eligible for services from a government program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, to help reduce some of the financial strain.
The panel agreed that the son’s teachers need to be apprised of the situation at home so they can help the family find resources to help the child and the mother. Panelist Chad Stefanyak said that he has had meetings with teachers, parents, the school nurse and counselor to plan alternatives to sending children home.
In summary, Daniels said, “The fact that mother recognizes that she is stressed and losing patience is the biggest step toward finding that patience.”
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, former teacher and school administrator; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Michael Ramsey, MS, LPC, Program Supervisor, Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; and Denise Continenza, extension educator.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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