Sometimes people ask me if I’m worried about how our situation affects the children. Well, I do of course, especially after reading about the recent study that says even brief bouts of poverty negatively affects children’s health.
Affordable housing directly influences a child’s health according the report. Unsafe living conditions, homelessness and frequent moves put children more at risk to suffer from a number of health issues including hypertension, heart disease, depression or anxiety, athsma, developmental delays and behavioral problems.
That’s quite a potential toll! I am grateful my kids are all healthy right now – but maybe those things will come along later in life.
Beyond the health concerns I worry about the psychological effects – that my 5th grader who is living with friends won’t feel part of the family when she returns, or that my 8th grader is embarrassed about where we live – although she doesn’t hesitate to have friends drop her off at the trailer after a playdate. Is my son overly active in his first grade class because he was physically restrained in his orphanage or because of our cramped living situation? Maybe both things are at play.
But I see good effects as well. My 8th grader wants to be an architect and build affordable housing. She asks me to pull over as we leave the Von’s parking lot so that she can jump out of the car and hand Mary, a disabled homeless woman who sits at the parking lot entrance with her ‘Anything Helps’ sign, a $5 bill from her own wallet. My 2nd grader asks for money to put in the Salvation Army kettle when we leave the grocery store.
I think my kids will be more frugal and aware of the cost of things. Maybe they’ll pinch pennies or maybe they’ll work like crazy and earn a lot so they’ll always be financially secure. If they do that and the bottom falls out I’ll bet they’ll roll with the punches and be ok. And they will always be aware that there are people who have less than they do, and I think they will look for opportunities to help them. We went to friends’ house for Thanksgiving and while we were there we watched the CNN Hero Awards. The younger kids didn’t seem to pay much attention but my oldest did. She doesn’t want to be a rock star or model like her friends – she wants to emulate the Heroes who were honored.
Today I returned from an errand and my 7 year old daughter handed me a note and asked me to read it “in my head, not out loud.” It said:
“Mom is the best and I like her because she is osom and smart and cool and funy but some times she is rily mad and sad and happy but the most incretebel thing about her is she helps homeles pepel. I love her when she is happy.”
And that was before I took her with me to deliver a bag of canned food to a man standing outside Target looking for work, his young son hunkered down next to him on the cold pavement.