Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How Stress and Crisis Affects Childhood

My parents were both young children during the Great Depression of the 1920s.  My mom was part of a large family, living on a farm in Wisconsin.  All of the kids worked both on their family farm and for neighbors.  It was not an option, there was no complaining about anything, you got up and worked.  The only exception was Sundays when the family attended church before working in the fields. My father was six when his dad died from a railroad accident. My grandmother, then a widow relied on her two sons, 6 and 12 to help provide.  The older son left school and began working full time. My father was left home alone to care for the house and himself. 
This early exposure to financial hardship caused my parents to have a very strong work ethic as well as a need to always have money in the bank.  Both of my parents worked fulltime jobs, even though at this time it was common for the wife to stay home and take care of the house and kids.  They instilled in my brother and I that responsibilities were always the first priority of the day.  We each had bank accounts as very young children and allowances and birthday money was deposited and saved for emergencies.
The resources that were available to families in the depression were limited. There was no government assistance, you found work, or you starved.  Many families left farms and towns in the mid-west and headed west for new job prospects.  Other families banded together, taking in many generations into one home.  Many more children were left in orphanages because the parents could not afford to care for them.   The Great depression was 80 plus years ago and there are not many people around who remember it.  Unfortunately, between the banking, housing, and health care crisis, many Americans are finding themselves in similar situations. 
March 11, 2011 Japan endured a 9.0 earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear power plant disaster.  I started to wonder how this is affecting the children in Japan, especially those immediately affected by the disasters.  Because the crisis is new, there was not a lot of information about the long-term effects.  I was impressed with the concern by the Japanese officials for the children’s well being and emotional stability.  In a town that was devastated by the tsunami, a school building survived.  Thirty children remained at the school six days after the event, their parents among those that were missing and presumed dead.  The school officials refused to let reports talk to the children.  They were concerned that it would produce false hope in the children. 
I thought back to the attacks here in the United States on September 11, 2001.  Did we go out of our way to protect the children?  I live on the other side of the country and did not know anyone who was directly affected by the tragedy of 9-11, but I do remember that every channel, even those that normally showed other types of programming, showed the twin towers burning and collapsing for days on end. 
In Japan, people were concerned that the children would be scared and not understand what was happening on the news in regards to the nuclear power plant disaster.  They quickly produced a cartoon that explained the problem in a way that was meaningful and relevant to children. They told the children that the plant was sick with stomach problems and the concern was that it would poop and make a mess that would be difficult to clean-up and would harm the environment around it.
Taking something as devastating as what happened in Japan, and making a cartoon that explains it in a way that is understandable to children, will provide them some emotional security.  Many times it is the unknown that scares children the most and leaves them feeling unsafe. 


Kathryn Price said...

Interesting choice to talk about the disaster in Japan. I learned a lot from your post including how they made a cartoon to describe the power plant catastrophe. This is something that I had not heard of before. I think that is so important for children to understand tragedies such as 9/11 and tsunamis. Thanks for the information.

Rebekah said...

Wow--I really enjoyed your post this week. I also looked at the stress the tsunami caused on children, but I looked back to the tsunami of 2004. What traumatic events!!! Thanks for a great post!!!

Janille said...


Stress is a big factor that plagues our students. Being a teacher I see children stressed with things adults stress about: hunger, taking care of children, finances,... Children seldom get a chance to be a kid!

Janille said...


Stress is something that plagues our children. They often stress about the things that stress adults: finances, hunger, taking care of children (brothers and sisters). Children seldom get a chance to be children.

tiffany said...

Your parents sound so much like my grandparents. That was the way my Father and his siblings were raised. It was work for what you needed or wanted. Early to rise was what my grandma used to always say. I feel that that generation of people truly knew what it was to work for something. Children today stress over why they can't have the latest video game or why they can't eat McDonalds every night, maybe we need to revert back to those times so people can remember what it is to truly feel stress over the simple things in life, we need to get away from the corporate life and back to the farms.

Kelsy Richardson said...

Stacie, your parents sound like mine. My mother had to work on her familes farm. When my father was ten his father left his mother and he had to drop out of school to help take care of the household. I think this is what made my parents value hard work. Seeing how they worked hard to maintain their household, makes me want the same things out of life.