This is a particularly difficult time for teens whose families have been hit hard by economic changes. Why especially hard for teens? This is a time when teens want to break away from their families and turn towards their peers. But if the family is in crisis, it becomes very hard to break away just when everyone needs to pull together. the money changes can work against the developmental tasks of the teen years. It is also possible that being with friends would involve money that is no longer available .To go out to eat or on field trips or other youth activities requires money that the other kids may still have and your teen can feel left out. Sometimes families have to relocate and your child loses friends and finds it hard to break into a new group. And of course, teens are often materialistic and group status may depend on wearing certain clothes, shoes, etc. In addition many teens are aware that plans for their futures may have to change and this can be upsetting especially if older siblings have not had to deal with this stress.

The Iowa Youth and Family Study project was started during the period when many families in Iowa were not able to keep their family farms ( late 80’s) and these families had to weather major losses and economic downturns. 500 7th grade students were followed over a period of 20 years, making this one of the most comprehensive studies of family life done. What do you imagine caused these teens the most trouble? The emotional distress of their parents!!! They were able to adapt to changes in circumstance and lifestyle but if their parents were irritable, depressed , withdrawn, or fighting , teens did worse than those whose families pulled together and weathered changes with acceptance and calmness. In addition families who reached out to their communities and others for help did better emotionally. Parents who do not become bitter, angry, depressed or hopeless are setting a powerful example and saying implicitly that relationships are what truly matter in life.

See also the 2008 February issue of Money magazine for an interview with me that talks further about helping teens through this time.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Mary Gresham is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia. She works with both clinical and financial issues in her practice and is also a speaker and author.