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Is the economic slump actually making our children blue?

"Enough already!" Me actually -- not the two children. Seems my sporadic glumness, a by-product of the recession, is dangerous to their health. No more negative thoughts, spring forward and positive energy is the order of the day.

If we're not too careful our daily talk around the kitchen table about the astronomic costs of car and health insurances, along with the rising price of a tin of beans, could fall on not-too-deaf little ears.

Are we too intense explaining to them why we can't afford to take them on bigger treats? Does "we're saving for a holiday in the sun" really cut ice with children? Are we all a bit OTT on the "sharing" and "explaining" side of the recession? Do we all really need to constantly "talk about it" US style?

Maybe it's no wonder the mood in tiny-tot land is heavy and at times manic. Perhaps it's time to take a closer look at the behaviour of those little mites in the supermarkets banging mummy's iron baskets against shelves in dispute. Are they just, poor pets, bored, or is there something more? Could they actually be . . . depressed?

Seems it might be the answer. The World Health Organisation (WHO) claims one in 10 children are going through their own "recession depression." And it's not just a case of temper tantrums. It's real -- and serious.

The WHO has predicted by 2020, when today's children reach adulthood, depression will rank as the second leading cause of sickness, behind heart disease.

So how do you know if that's happening to your little one? Chances are they are exhibiting what the WHO calls "lost years of healthy life". Pick from the list: anxious thoughts about the next day, worrying how mum is going to pay for dance lessons, asking if the dog or cat will have enough to eat, wondering if mummy or daddy will ever stop rowing or, perhaps, thinking they might be the cause of the domestic disputes.

Other children may show an inability to get pleasure or excitement from simple activities. Some will gain weight, others might sleep too little or not enough. Most feel worthless, and have low motivation. Children can end up retreating into themselves, leaving the parents, who are getting on with the process of putting food on the table, oblivious to what is going on.

And it's not just a case of throwing borrowed money at the problem. We can give them all they want -- swimming, dance recitals, horse-riding, hurling -- but at what expense, literally?



gloom

What can be done to lift the gloom? It's time to get childish, claim WHO, get down to your child's level and see things from their perspective. Instead of retreating to the TV on Saturday mornings, take the children out for a walk. We usually head to nearby Ravensdale Woods or the local beach at Blackrock. This is usually followed with a treat in the sweet shop.

Or try a treasure hunt around the house, with little notes left in places to find, and the ultimate prize, a comic maybe or a toy car.

Have the children help out with chores? Reward them with smiley stickers on a Reward Chart. Each sticker can equal time on the Nintendo, or money for saving.

Life coach, John Byrne of GetBusyLiving in Dublin, says it is all about refocusing and communicating with your child. Take away the expensive treats, such as an afternoon at the cinema, and instead go for a picnic, and a fun walk.

"Children will benefit from having their thoughts focused in a useful positive way, not on what they can't do as budgets are tight, but on what they can do", he says.

"If they are old enough, you can give them some sense of the situation. With a little imagination, I don't think kids will feel short changed." That's enough to raise a smile.


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