Mom, are we poor?

A child's view of the recession

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

child_poverty_sepia Now, when I was a child we were poor and we were on the road but, then again, I am of Gypsy stock. Shoes and even clothes were at a premium and as to toys, well, what toys. That's probably why I am a pack rat now.

On the positive note, however, I wish to say that the poverty of ours was something that did teach me the value of things and of money. Waste not want not was always a motto that I still adhere to this day.

We knew as kids that we could not afford this or that and that was it. We did not whine and beg for things that could not be afforded and, in addition to that, many of those things would just not have been practical on the road.

“Mom, are we poor?” is not a quote from a Dickensian novel but it is a question that is in the mind of and even spoken out by children in many places in Britain today. Poverty, not that it ever went away, is back and in some cases back with a vengeance and that simply because it hits people who have never experienced having little or nothing.

Research have been conducted by looking at the recession through a child’s eyes and has revealed that many children in Britain have become very aware of the 'R' word, and this is beginning to impact on the next generation of shopper and their behavior.

“Mom, are we poor?” is what mums and dads up and down the country are starting to hear from their children and it has been found that the recession is really starting to hit home with the younger members of the family.

Around 71% of junior school children understood the term credit crunch which is not really surprising in this age of pervasive media and it will also come as a no surprise that children are fully aware of the economic crisis that surrounds them. What is interesting, however, is how parents are reacting to this. They are clearly divided into two camps; those who want to protect and those who see the opportunity to educate.

I would suggest that protecting their little darlings – sorry for my sarcasm – from reality is futile and a very bad idea. First of the kids will become suspicious of things when things are being hidden from them and second they will realize something is up anyway and that may make them rather worried. Be open with them and teach them to live within the means available and teach them also to save.

Parents, and here especially mothers, who want to protect their children tend to see their role as one of preserving childhood innocence, shielding them from the harsh realities of the outside world. They are making lots of personal sacrifices in order that they can still give their kids everything they feel they deserve, which is the entire wrong approach. It will not help the kids to come to terms with reality.

Some mothers (and fathers) make sacrifices so that their children can go to their regular ice skating competitions and make it to the latest school trip, so that the children do not realize that, actually, they can no longer afford to send their kids to all those things.

But children must learn to face realities in the same way as adults must, for they will be adults one day and if they have had everything given to them all the time they will never learn the value of money and the value of things.

Many of those sporting activities cost money and a great deal of it, and even more so if you have more than one child going to such activities, but none of those are necessities. The kids can get their exercises in much cheaper ways. It does not have to be structured activities, whether ice skating and competition, soccer practice and games, etc. A bicycles, even a second hand one, is a great exercise tool and the local park also has lots to do.

If the kids were used to such activities then they will have to be told that, yes, as a family it is no longer financially possible to do such things. School trips, obviously, do fall into a different category, as many of them are part of the curriculum.

When it comes to gadgets kids also have to understand that it does not have to be the very latest laptop, games console or cell phone, and they need to be taught to look after what they have.

Parents pretending to their kids, when they already as as to ‘can you afford it’ that all is hunky dory with by pretending that they can afford what the child might want are doing their children a great disservice.

Children must come to understand that poverty is no shame but has, in the main, something to do with circumstances beyond their parents' control and their own control, and it is only the parents who can communicate that to them. But, when the parents are ashamed to admit the fact that they cannot afford this or that then the children will see poverty as a stigma.

On the other hand, what is poverty and who decides it? Is it not also a thing of perception.

There are many folks that live off grid, for instance, and who homeschool their kids and whose children wear homemade clothes (or none in certain conditions) and definitely go barefoot most of the time. Those children and their families would be regarded as poor, in some cases dirt poor even as there is little spending money every available but they are not poor in many other things.

When we measure poverty only by disposable income and the poverty of children only as to how much pocket money (allowance) that they get and how many activities they attend, etc., then we do everyone a disservice.

The mothers who take a more educational viewpoint are less concerned with sheltering their children and more keen to lead by example. They are really proud to see their children exhibiting money saving behavior.

Such behavior can, however, only cone to the fore as and when children are exposed to reality and taught the ways of saving, of looking after their things and of making do and mending, instead of always wanting new.

Are foreign holidays, or even going away holidays in this country, really a necessity? They aren't. Local parks can be great places to spend the days of one's holidays, and trips in the local area to forests, and other sites of interest can be much more valuable than the beaches at the Costa del Sol.

The trips top McDs and other such places which do not provide real food either are not a necessity either and neither are they any good for the children and their health. Grow a food garden and get the kids really involved and you will all have fun and healthy kids.

Not being able to afford to do all those activities also might just slow down the hectic life of families somewhat and actually may make family meals together a possibility once again.

When a child asks “Mom, are we poor?” and the truth is that the family is then the answer should be “Yes, but it does not matter!” and then the teaching should begin of how to live a life that demands less.

This is also a good start for living a greener life, a life that has less of an impact on Mother Earth. Poverty is no shame. It happens and for some it is even a choice.

© 2011