Children often understand more about financial difficulties than adults realize. When I was about ten years old and my sister six, my father, a pastor, was assigned to a small, struggling church. Its membership was already dwindling when we arrived; consequently, we lived on my mother’s salary as a teacher. While we were by no means destitute, my parents were feeling the strain of a single modest salary. Although I didn’t know it at the time, they had no money for Christmas that year until a parent of one of my mother’s students slipped Mom $100 in a Christmas card.
My parents thought they had kept their monetary problems from us kids, until my mother discovered that my little sister had told her kindergarten teacher that we couldn’t afford to bring in six eggs to dye for Easter.
We could afford the 75 cents for half a dozen eggs; the cost to my mother’s pride was probably far more expensive. Even greater must have been the weight carried by a six year old who wasn’t sure her family could buy basic food – even though we could.
Difficult financial times can be especially scary to children, who possess very limited power to change circumstances, while understanding, either vaguely or explicitly, that there’s not enough money.
Al Roker, Deborah Roberts, and Elmo host Families
Stand Together: Feeling Secure in Tough Times
To help families deal with these problems, the people who produce Sesame Street created Families Stand Together: Feeling Secure in Tough Times. The hour-long special is hosted by Al Roker, Deborah Roberts, and Elmo. You can watch the video online, as well as check local stations for airing times. The PBS website also includes a Families Stand Together section, with tips for parents on talking about change and other online resources, including financial information resources.
In San Diego, KPBS is hosting a showing of the special at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido on Saturday, February 6. There will be two showings, at 9 am and 12:30 pm, as well as live performances by the Jumpitz and a talk for parents from local financial journalist George Chamberlin. The event is free, but you must RSVP to attend.
While parents strive to make sure our children’s needs are met, it is important to remember that their needs include being helped to understand what is happening around them.
Helping them understand will also teach our children the most important lesson, given in a Mr. Roger’s song, found on the Families Stand Together site:
I’m taking care of you,
Taking good care of you.
For once I was very little too.
Now I take care of you.