Treading the Family Water During Hard Times

Recently, in California, a man shot his wife, five children and himself. The media reported that economic and work problems most likely provoked the killings. Of course, the incident was all over the Internet and news feeds. Murder sells—most especially when the victims are adorable children and, oh yes, when the commentators can turn the murderer into both a victim and emblem of just how hard our economic times have become.

But, wait a minute. Wouldn’t the media be serving the public far better if it featured a nightly spot on the news about one of the hundreds of thousands of financially-strapped families who are coping, managing and creating smart strategies?

The “Fox News” analyst and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin got it right. These family tragedies are truly the exception. Let’s applaud and feature these strong, sturdy families and impart their skills to others who are struggling during these unprecedented times. And almost no one is immune. We’ve already heard about too many scams and ponzi schemes and their affect on the very rich. The most useful news reports these days should include positive, pro-active and useful techniques for getting through this economic crisis.

So, just how can families keep their heads above water? Here are a few ideas for families to consider.

  1. Get in charge of your finances as soon as possible—and as wisely as you can. Seek help. Some banks and credit unions are now offering creative ways to refinance, lend and guide. There is no shame in asking for help. Shame is for those who aren’t strong enough to ask.
  2. Over the next two to four weeks, make a list of all the ways—ALL--that you and your family spend money. Soon, you might find that you are renting lots of videos, paying for premium television channels, buying the next nail polish color that still isn’t right, having lunches out, grabbing the latest magazines, selecting clothes that you want instead of need, driving places you don’t absolutely need to go (like the mall) and burning up gas or making an impulse purchase of those sugary donuts and cakes on display in the center aisle of the grocery store because you “deserve” to enjoy yourself, by gosh, during such difficult times.
  3. At the end of the time period, add up all these expenses. The total may not seem like a lot, but multiply it by 12. What else could you be doing with that money? Like the formations of rivers and canyons, every little action cumulatively yields big results.
  4. Turn your family into a well-oiled machine, with each person doing his or her part. Make sure, for example, that children pitch in with chores. Even toddlers can learn to bring their plates to the kitchen sink. Seeing the family as a team builds support and feelings of safety and love and teaches the necessary life skills of prioritizing, helping and coping. Have family meetings where you discuss family assignments, money and chores. For example, can older children earn money by baby-sitting, shoveling snow or delivering news papers, for example? Put children in charge of clipping grocery and drug store coupons.
  5. Seriously consider re-locating or changing jobs and careers. Can you afford, for example, for one person to get trained in a healthcare profession? Yes, it will take time, but some problems must be seen as smart longer-term investments of time, stress and money. If ever there were a time to “think outside the box,” it’s right now.
  6. Develop new rituals and family activities that do not require spending more money. Not too long ago, people didn’t have television and computers. What projects could all of you do together?
  7. Finally, remind your family that you will stay together and get through these hard times. Children may moan and groan about not having the latest whatever, but they only truly need to feel loved, safe and warm.

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Author's Bio: 

LeslieBeth Wish is a Psychologist, Clinical Social Worker and author who is nationally recognized for her contributions to women, love, relationships, family, career, workplace, and organizations.

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