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Getting Through Tough Times

Little girl putting money in savings jar

How You Can Help Mom or Dad

Sharon M. Danes, Extension Specialist and Professor — Family Social Science

Reviewed August 2015 by author.

Sometimes through no fault of their own, parents find themselves without a job or with lower incomes. A factory may close, sales may be down or their health may fail. Whatever the cause, tough times affect everyone in the family.

Unemployment may mean less money, more stress, and schedule changes. Your parent may behave like a different person. The anger and frustration they feel may come out in ways you have trouble understanding. Mom may yell about things that wouldn't have bothered her before. Or Dad may not pay attention when you're talking.

During tough times, parents are worried about paying the bills and finding a new job. They also may be feeling angry about losing their job.

Talking can help. Take time to talk to your parents and brothers and sisters about the changes taking place. Listen to what they have to say.

Sometimes you may feel alone and worried about what's happening to your family. Angry outbursts, depression, or abuse of alcohol are all examples of serious problems that can occur in families. These problems may require outside help. Your school counselor, teacher, faith leader, doctor, or neighbor can help you find the support you need. Don't hesitate to talk to them.

Ways You Can Help

Here are some things you can do when money is short:

  • Think about things you've been spending money on that you can do without: movies, smart phone, magazines, music, gas, sodas, and so on.
  • Think about ways to earn money: mowing lawns, cleaning, baby-sitting, shoveling snow, walking a neighbor’s dog, or delivering papers.
  • Think about ways to stretch the money your family does have: garden, baby-sit for younger brothers and sisters, or prepare meals.

Here are some ways you can help your family save on bills. Even little things help:

  • Turn off the lights, television, computer, and other electrical appliances when not in use.
  • Make fewer phone calls and keep them short.
  • Take shorter showers to cut down on the hot water used.
  • Dry clothes on clotheslines rather than in a dryer when possible.
  • Take clothes out of the dryer immediately to cut down on ironing.
  • Hang your clothes up after wearing so they won't need to be washed as often and will last longer.
  • Don't stand with the refrigerator door open while deciding what to eat.
  • Drink water, milk and juices, which are healthier and can be less expensive than soda.
  • Hang up the towel after your shower/bath so it can dry and be used again.
  • Turn off water while brushing your teeth, turn on (small stream) for rinsing.
  • Use less shampoo — only enough to clean the hair (too much lather is wasteful).
  • Buy generic brands of personal care products or buy name brand products only with coupons.
  • Don't waste school supplies — use both sides of paper.
  • Don't be wasteful with food.
  • Ride your bike or walk to places whenever possible.
  • Give gifts to friends and family of your time and energy rather than money.

Here are some things you can do to help relieve stress and tension at home:

  • Think about the things you do that make other people in your family angry. Find ways to avoid doing those things.
  • Do extra chores; help out without being asked.
  • Clean up after yourself.
  • Avoid picking fights.
  • Spend time caring for younger brothers or sisters.
  • Share your possessions and school supplies with other family members. Learn to be generous with your time also.
  • Keep a good sense of humor.
  • Be enthusiastic about trying new foods.
  • If a task needs to be done, and you can do it, then do it; it will be appreciated.
  • Treat your family with kindness. Be courteous, using "please and thank you" generously.
  • Accept your parents' decisions in a positive manner.

No matter what your age, there are things you can do to help at home during tough times.

Sources

Danes, S. M. & Stumme, P. (2014). Adjusting to Suddenly Reduced Income. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota Extension.

National Consumer Law Center. (2013). Guide to Surviving Debt. Boston, MA: National Consumer Law Center.

Related Resources

Rural Minnesota Life — Provides information for Minnesotan rural families, including the other 16 Getting Through Tough Times fact sheets.

My Friend Died and I Didn't Even Get a Chance To Say Goodbye — Practical tips to help a child grieve the loss of a friend.

Food Preparation — How to use kitchen equipment, prepare produce, cook legumes, and more.

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