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Keeping It Together When Your Parents Are Freaking Out

One of the worst parts about becoming a teenager is the increasing awareness of problems in society and how they impact our families. This applies to family stress, unemployment, poverty, job stress, financial struggles and planning for our children’s futures. Teenagers become more interested in politics, elections, economic issues, and sometimes you may even read a newspaper. As most of you may already know, we are currently experiencing some of the worst economic times this country has seen in your lifetime. Equally distressing is the fact that at this point it is impossible to determine the length or severity of the aftermath. We are seeing overwhelming amounts of home foreclosures, bankruptcies and retirement savings disappearing before our very eyes.

Most families have the resources and support to handle everyday stress. We call our friends or relatives; we talk to our doctors, pastors and sometimes even a counselor. When the stressor is financial difficulties, those resources and support systems become less accessible and our pride often gets in our way of asking for help. This can often lead to increased stress, tension and even depression in most people, only compounding the problem and distancing ourselves from sources of support. Parents can also become less tolerable of their children, use harsher forms of discipline and simply not have the money to support their teenager’s needs that they could have afforded a year ago.

These hard economic times are not any one person’s fault, and will not be resolved over night. This is why it is important to understand that even though you can not fix these problems, there are things each of you can do assist your family, and yourselves, in coping through these times.

  1. Cut back on your spending. A night out with friends, eating dinner, seeing a movie, driving around town or hanging out at the mall, can easily cost you $20 to $30. Even if you only go out one time per weekend, this can add up to $80 to $120 per month. Nights hanging out at a friend’s house, renting movies, etc. can save you up to $100 per month and allow you to save money to help pay for other necessities that you may have.
  2. Help out more around the house. We all love chores. Who does not enjoy an afternoon mowing the grass, washing dishes or doing the laundry. When things get hectic for most parents, these are the things that tend to get neglected and pile up, thus causing more stress and anxiety. Taking 20 minutes to wash dishes, or do a load of laundry, without being asked, can really lighten the load that your parents may be feeling.
  3. Do not complain when we buy off-brand items. Let’s be honest, unless you actually see the label, most of you can not tell the difference between name brand and “generic” canned corn. Buying off-brand items can save you up to 50% and allows us to buy more for less money.
  4. Do you really need $120 pair of shoes? Need I say more?
  5. Although it is difficult, please understand your parents may be stressed and scared, not necessarily mean, cold or not-understanding. When parents are stressed, especially about issues that are so out of their control, they tend to be less patient and understanding. Your parents may have higher expectations of you, and may even appear that to never be satisfied with what you do. This is not intentional; it is simply their inner stress coming out of them during a stressful moment. Your additional understanding and patience will be appreciated beyond measure and may decrease the amount of tension that can build within the home.
  6. Most importantly, remember that these kinds of economic times are temporary, and will improve with time. Our ability to see these issues as challenges, not problems, can alter our perceptions and give us the extra patience and strength that is required to endure these hard times. For those of you who are not experiencing these financial struggles, please remember that many of your friend’s families are. These times call for understanding, compassion and caring for each other, not unwarranted comparisons, bullying, teasing or insults. If everyone agrees to do their part, regardless of how small or insignificant it may seem, we will get through this economic crisis.

If these times become too much to bear, never be afraid to ask for help. Never hesitate to voice your concerns, fears or anxieties. Remember that no one can help you if no one knows of your struggles.

Brad Singer, LCSW