As a nation we have just emerged from a global pandemic, and yet we now find ourselves in a different crisis altogether. We’ve seen living costs rise to a 40 year high, putting significant pressure on everyone, with some of us experiencing this more keenly than others. Recognising the general anxiety around our country, provoked by the economic landscape, you may have wondered what impact this will have on your family and your children in particular.
What impact is the cost of living crisis having on children’s mental health?
There are a number of ways that the cost of living crisis could affect our children, particularly in regards to their mental well being. Anxiety for example is something we are seeing increasing across the UK. Older children, for example, may have a better sense of the unease around the nation, what is talked about in the news and this could lead to worries for their own families or friends' circumstances. For younger children, whilst not understanding everything, they may be picking up on the worry of those around them, causing them to feel unsettled or anxious.
Whilst anxiety is one feeling that may be provoked in our young people at the moment, it may also be a low mood that you begin to see in your child. Perhaps their worries have contributed to them despairing or feeling hopeless, or they’re struggling to enjoy life when things feel particularly hard. With rising costs, as families we may be looking to steady our finances and therefore prioritise what is most essential. That might mean that opportunities that our children once had are paused for a time. Whilst there are many ways children can still enjoy leisure, relaxation and socialising, they may feel their options have been restricted which may also impact their mood.
There are different ways our children may feel isolated during this time. Perhaps they begin to compare themselves to their peers and are left feeling lacking, or perhaps their financial limitations stop them being able to socialise as much with their friends. They may also begin to feel isolated if their circumstances are quite different from their peers and they’re feeling the impact more than others.
You may notice that the impact is initially on their physical health which has implications for their mental health further down the line. For example, the pressures on money may reduce healthier choices for them, limit their opportunities for exercise or make it difficult to access healthcare. All of these in turn may affect their mood.
How can I support my child?
As parents, it's easy to feel helpless when our children come to us anxious about issues beyond our control, but there are ways we can reassure them:
A great way to support your child and their wellbeing during this difficult time is to have conversations with them. This is a great way to hear from them and better understand what worries they have or how this crisis is impacting them. Only through talking with them and listening to their concerns will you be able to reassure them and offer your support. Talk to them about what you’re doing to navigate this difficult time and what support is in place to help them. It may be that they would find it easier to talk to someone else, perhaps another friend or family member or someone within their school community.
Often worries and anxieties are formed where children are misinformed and so one way you can support your child is to educate them. Informing them of what is happening and what impact it may have on your family will help them to feel involved and alleviate some of their worries. If your child is older, it may be appropriate to watch the news with them and discuss what they see and how they feel about it. There may be practical ways you can educate them on money and how to use it, empowering them to take some control. You can also educate them on how to best engage with social media. Often low moods can be sparked in young people as they compare themselves to peers on social media. Help them to challenge what they see and not take everything at face value. If you’d like more support with this, have a look at this article.
While the opportunities once available to your child may now be limited, there are still lots of ways for your children to socialise, enjoy leisure time and relax. Think creatively about the free opportunities available to them. It may be that there are free extracurricular activities at their school, local parks they can enjoy, maybe they would enjoy having friends round after school to play, walks in nature or joining a local library. All of these things will help to promote your child’s wellbeing both physically and mentally reminding them that there is still much to be enjoyed in this season.
The pressure of the cost of living crisis might affect you in lots of different ways. We know we simply cannot change our financial circumstances overnight and yet sometimes we can focus so much on our children we fail to look after our own needs or reach out for help when we need it. Have a think about the ways you can be looking after yourself at this time too. Things like sleep, exercise, leisure and social time are all things that promote your well-being and will help you feel better able to support your children. Children don’t need lots of material things to be happy, what is most important for them is relationships. So take the time to invest in your relationships with your children. Find ways to spend good quality time with them, enjoying the things they’re passionate about. There are lots of different organisations offering support during this time so do reach out and ask for help if you need it, it may be that you qualify for some support from the government. Here are some links to have a look at: