going deeper

Finding hope in the middle of the shutdown

By: Jerry
Jerry's picture

How can I help my family get back to “normal” during this shutdown? 

Shutdowns are an unexpected crisis and a highly stressful financial event. Sudden unemployment, loss of income, or not having enough medical coverage to pay the copayment is a helpless feeling. It may take months to perhaps even a year for everyone to feel that things are financially and emotionally back to “normal.”  (Which many experts refer to as the “New Normal”)  

The actual psychological impact of the Shutdown will vary widely between people based on factors like- age, their previous experiences with natural shutdown recovery and most significantly how much stress they already had in their life before the Shutdown.

The more stress someone had in their life prior to the Shutdown, the longer it takes to recover, and with the additional stress of daily life coupled with the rise of unexpected expenses, personal pressure levels can quickly increase.

Here are some immediate ways to restore order back into your life after the chaos and confusion that can follow a government shutdown.

1)   Reconnect in relationships – 

You can't get through a crisis alone. Since everyone is impacted differently, it is vitally important to talk about the stress and pressures you experienced with the people closest to you. Reach out to friends and family as soon as possible, and call people you haven't heard from in a while. Checking in to ask if they are okay will take a few minutes, but it will empower and help both of you. Talk about what each of you experienced through the shutdown and how you got through the last Shutdown. Tremendous connection can occur when you go through a crisis with someone, so this is an especially good time to reach out to friends or family who may have drifted away from your closest circle of relationships. Take action to reach out to people with words of encouragement and support, but don't wait for someone else to text, call or email you- because their phone may not work from lack of payment. Seek them out if you don’t hear back then reconnect the relationship while encouraging each other during the rebuilding process.

2)   Rebuild your routines- 

This is one of the most important factors to rapidly get life back on track because we draw strength and security from a structured daily routine. Bedtime, dinnertime, getting up to go to school, or work, or your house of faith or to the gym; to regain strength quickly, identify what normal routines you had before the Shutdown- then get back to them as soon as possible. Even if you are staying with family members, stick with the rituals you typically followed before the Shutdown that made up your daily lifestyle. This way you can feel the predictability of previous patterns and routines regardless of the stress of the changes happening around you.

3)   Reach out for faith- 

In times of major crisis many people turn to the spiritual power of prayer. Spiritual resilience is built during the toughest of times because there is tremendous strength in knowing what you believe and living in harmony with those beliefs. Plugging into a faith system after the Shutdown will allow you to release anxiety over the things you feel like you can’t control. Dedicate a few minutes each day to quiet mediation and reflection on what matters most. This is especially important when you or your children may feel lost, alone or afraid. Plus, many houses of faith have shutdown support teams, support services and even financial assistance available to help people cope with crisis. People of many faith systems believe in helping their neighbors, so avoid the tendency of being “too proud” to ask for assistance. Having a committed personal faith combined with the connection of a local house of worship can give you a tremendous sense of community to get through this Shutdown as well as any unexpected crisis events to come.

4)   Retell your story- 

Young and old alike will benefit from hearing about how other people survived  previous government shutdowns, unemployment or stock market crashes like the great depression. There is tremendous power in telling your story; healing power for you and helpful power for others who will gain insight and strength by hearing how creative people can become through the crisis. As you speak up about what happened, it will make it easier for other family members or coworkers to talk about their feelings of loss as well. Things will never be the same as before, but life will go on and we can rebuild and get through it better together. Telling your story now will give you additional strength as well as connect you to the neighbors and friends as they share their story with you.


Remember –

“If you talk through it, you can get through it.”


How does a government shutdown like this affect kids?  

It depends on the age of the child. The younger the child, the more they look to their parents for emotional security and strength. If a Mom or Dad are “shell-shocked" or “numb” and not able to manage their own emotions or responsibilities; the child will feel extra pressure and become very confused and further stressed. Remember, it's normal to be overwhelmed by a major shutdown and the loss of employment income. That is why it's so important to take care of yourself in order to take care of your children and others under your care through the sometimes lengthy period of recovery and rebuilding after the Shutdown.

Think about the advice given on commercial airliners to parents traveling with small children. “Should there be an unexpected cabin de-pressurization; oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. Place the mask over your nose and mouth like this and then place the mask over the mouth and nose of those around you needing assistance.”

Take care of your own emotional needs first, and then you will be in a stronger position to help those around you. If you feel overwhelmed in giving your children or others who may depend on you for support, please ask for help.

It's okay to be tired, worn out and overly stressed. That's normal during a shutdown. However, it's not okay to ignore caring for the needs of those counting on you like children, the elderly or pets.

Sometimes a parent may need to make adjustments to their own schedules for a while by delegating tasks in order to have time and energy to help their children avoid feeling more pressure from the difficult experience that surviving a government shutdown brings. If you feel that your ‘caregiver tank’ is empty, let someone else help you for a while until you get your strength back. That's best for you and for those that you care about.

Dedicate attention to understanding the needs of young children, notice what they are saying, drawing or doing to determine if they are still feeling overly stressed from the Shutdown.

School age kids

need to talk, draw pictures or take positive action, (like creating crafts to raise money for kids just like them who are Shutdown survivors because their homes have no utilities), so if you give them something to do to help, they can take positive action and sort through their emotions immediately.

High school age kids

may try to act "tough" about everything, but often are more scared about the changes, losses and confusion than any other group. If they are willing to talk to their siblings, other family members, clergy or counselors it often doesn’t take very long before they can grow strong enough to deal with their emotions and get back to feeling like themselves again.

The greatest danger sign to be alert and aware of is by noticing any dramatic changes in behavior. If a child was always happy-go-lucky before the Shutdown and now sits all day to watch video footage of the world financial markets on the news channels- then you may want to figure out why they made such a dramatic shift in personality. Watch for other major changes in sleep patterns, school patterns, school performance, peer relations and so on. If you see major changes that concern you, it's time to seek professional attention for the child with their pediatrician or with a child behavioral specialist


About the author –  Dwight Bain helps people manage major change as an author and Nationally Certified Counselor in Orlando where he lives with his wife Sheila, their two children and three cats. Follow him on social @DwightBain


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