Almost half of Americans report being more stressed than a year ago, according to this week's USA Today. One-third of Americans are suffering from "extreme" stress. Unfortunately, the survey was taken before the stock market plunged, so the real numbers are probably worse. That stress is affecting eating and sleeping levels, and inevitably how we relate to others, especially our families.
Since most families are affected by these negative economic trends, it's important to acknowledge the impact it has on our lives and take action to try to remain calm and provide a sense of normalcy to children. I've read how some families have skipped going out to dinner and a movie, and instead have a simple dinner at home followed by game night.
If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, turn off the bad news, take a walk or a bath, or call a friend. Appreciate the people you have in your life. One family I know with several young children in the house reports the father's slow work schedule has allowed him to spend a lot more time with the family. It does create some financial hardship, but they try to look at the positive side as he has always been extremely busy at work. Older children are aware of financial strain, so be honest about any household changes that you need to make. Ask for their ideas in cutting costs, and look for signs of stress in children.
Reach out to others who are facing extreme stress, or if you see signs of abuse or neglect. The USA Today article advises that as stress levels increase, domestic violence and child abuse also rise.
Be on the lookout for families in crisis, and help connect them to social service agencies that can help. You may be the only one who sees the signs of a child or adult in need. If you are able, offer to care for a child for a couple of hours while a parent looks for a new job. Or, if you still have a good job, help others who are looking for work network with your contacts.
Be a steady voice amidst the chaos, and remind friends and family that this period will pass, and the relationships they nurture will remain.