CALGARY – Keeping up with kids can be an adventure – no matter what the situation at home.
But increased stress – about diminished investments, job insecurity or job loss – can take a toll on all members of the family.
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“I’ve been off work for probably over a year now,” said Tony Binns, the father of a rambunctious five-year old. “Fortunately, I was able to work freelance since then. So I’ve been okay… but it’s always looming right? You’re always one paycheck from having to do something drastic like move or sell, so it’s pretty scary.”
It’s something kids – at almost any age – are likely to pick up on.
“It’s a reality that many kids are aware of whether their parents talk to them about it or not,” said Soraya Lakhani, clinical director of Yellow Kite Child Psychology.
Calgary mother Anna Quan agrees.
“Definitely. He can tell if we’re stressed out at home,” Quan said of her two-year-old son.
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The impact on families is, perhaps, most clear at the Calgary Food Bank. In 2015, at least 41 per cent of its clients were children, and that only includes children that came in as part of a family.
It’s part of the reason why the food bank is teaming up with the Calgary Board of Education – so teachers can help identify kids that need help.
“If you have no food at school chances are you’re going home and there’s probably no food there either,” said James McAra, CEO of the Calgary Food Bank.
The Weekends And More or “WAM” program allows students at six Calgary schools to take food hampers home on weekends. Organizers are trying to expand it to ten schools by the end of the year.
“They ask us on Mondays when the hampers will come,” said Esther Peltier, a teacher at Cecil Swanson School in northeast Calgary. “So there’s definitely a need and a growing need due to our economic times.”
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Experts recommend having open, honest and age-appropriate conversations with kids, and for parents to take quality time for themselves and their children.
“What they need more than anything during that time is that their parents continue to be there for them and that they still have that loving caring relationship with their adult care-givers,” said Lakhani.
For Binns, the job loss has had an unexpected silver lining. Freelance work has given him the ability to spend more time at home during some important years in his son’s life.
“He noticed I was around a lot more. I’m not sure if he enjoys that or doesn’t enjoy that. You’d have to to ask him.”