Guiding Kids About Poverty

Keeping the dialogue age-appropriate while imparting empathy and identifying privilege when discussing poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity is essential.

In the United States, the elephants in the room include poverty, homelessness, and food scarcity. Even if you try to avoid discussing such sensitive subjects with your children, the truth is that they are all around you. It’s understandable to want to insulate children from the world’s harsh realities, but doing so is problematic.

Nearly three-quarters of the nation’s children are living in poverty. It’s likely that even if you and your family aren’t living in poverty, you’ll come into contact with those who are. Making your kids aware of the reality of poverty is just one part of raising sympathetic, emotionally educated, and compassionate youngsters who recognize their advantages.

Express your thoughts and emotions

Before bringing them up with your children, you must examine your feelings about issues like poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity. Regardless of how frequently you talk to your children about poverty, your actions send them a message every time you contact someone struggling.

Your message must be free of bias, shame, or other manifestations of insecurity. If you tell your children that individuals who live in poverty can be decent people but then show contempt for someone experiencing homelessness when you pass them on the street, they won’t believe you and won’t act appropriately.

Making your kids aware of the reality of poverty is just one part of raising sympathetic, emotionally educated, and compassionate youngsters who recognize their advantages.

Parenting can shape children’s opinions and how they perceive poverty. If you’re not careful, you could promote negative views about poverty and the poor if you don’t have these difficult conversations with your children.

As a result, the best way to teach your children is to lead by example. Even if poverty lacks public acknowledgment, your children pick up on and learn from your underhanded remarks against folks who get government support.

Make it age-appropriate

The most significant way to start a conversation in your family is to talk about something you’ve all experienced together. It may be a good moment to explain what’s going on to your children and determine how they feel about it.

Some children are so used to seeing homeless individuals living in tents or begging for money on the street that they don’t even bother to inquire. Point out what’s going on and then ask the youngsters how they feel about it.

To better comprehend your children’s perspectives on the situation and provide information that will help them grasp the gravity of the situation, talk to your children. 

An effective strategy to humanize the issue of homelessness for children is to elicit their ideas about what it’s like to be a person suffering homelessness. In this way, children will understand that those experiencing homelessness are genuine individuals who need respect and sympathy.

The discourse with small children should be straightforward. Giving food to those in need is sometimes a simple explanation for why they are there in the first place. When the school organizes a food drive, find out where the food is going.

A child’s ability to learn by observation is well-documented. Let them share what they know through their own words and actions.

Ideas and conversation starters might come from shows like Sesame Street, which has a homeless character. It’s also possible to obtain a Family Action Plan, which helps parents communicate to their children about hunger.

Honesty is the best policy.

Tell your children the reality of poverty, but in a way that doesn’t scare them. When a child does something wrong or does poorly in school, their parents are more likely to bring up the subject of homelessness and poverty as a kind of punishment. This is a bad strategy.

Only a tiny percentage of the homeless population has a mental disease, yet it is still an issue. Other than that, some individuals were just born into it.

Working hard versus lazing off isn’t always the best strategy for success. It’s more frequently than not a matter of good fortune and privilege. Explain to older children that employment isn’t always enough. Not having a job doesn’t indicate someone is a failure or not trying hard enough as they get older. 

Many elements might affect a person’s standard of living—family size, underemployment, type of job, pay rate, and more—and teens can begin to realize this.

For now, kids need to know that even if the person is employed, their money isn’t enough to cover their basic needs. The epidemic may have impacted work, making it more difficult for some people to obtain needs like a hot shower or nutritious food.

Put an end to the sham.

There is a perception that homelessness and food poverty afflict people in other communities.

Furthermore, many individuals have preconceptions about how poverty should appear. Food insecurity and food deserts suggest that people in these areas have limited access to grocery shops despite the availability of non-nutritious items at convenience stores, fast-food restaurants, or food banks. 

People may deem them a scammer If they leave the area in a car after soliciting food from passersby. However, this isn’t the case every time.

To teach our children that poverty looks different for everyone. Having students draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper and define what they consider “wants” or “privileges” vs. what they think “needs” is one method of teaching this.

They may label “needs” as watching television, playing with a toy, using the iPad, or going out to eat. After that, you can question whether or not watching television is necessary. As a result of this discussion, students gain a new appreciation that we all have various “necessities.”

Use words like “in need” or “underserved” instead of “less fortunate” or “poor.” An iPad or laptop and wi-fi are essential tools for preventing poverty in the workplace and the classroom.

Teach your children that there will be members of your community who are less fortunate than others. What does this mean?

It’s also beneficial to discuss how poverty isn’t a personal shortcoming. Both experts agree that the issue is not the individual but rather their predicament, a lack of resources, and the social class system. The lack of money or access to food isn’t necessarily a sign of laziness or dishonesty but rather a sign of a more fundamental problem.

Explain to them that it’s not anything they’re doing on purpose. Our battles look different for each of us because we’re all engaged. The language you use when discussing these issues can also help open discussions that move away from vilifying those in poverty instead of erasing the stigma of poverty. 

Parents should refrain from using terms like “poor” or “less fortunate” when discussing their children’s well-being.

Inspire faith and take action.

It is usual for children to experience intense feelings, such as guilt, when they learn about hardships experienced by the poor than themselves. Even if life can be unjust, it’s okay for your children to have what they do.

It’s right to be who you are and enjoy the advantage you want. However, how you use that privilege to help others and be charitable matters.

You can start a discussion about how your children can use their privileges by acknowledging their thankfulness. Help them develop ideas for deeds of kindness and generosity they can perform for others. Put their old toys and clothes to good use by passing them on to new children. 

Altruists, a company that provides volunteer boxes for youngsters to make cards and keychains for children who are moving into a new home after battling homelessness, offers at-home volunteer options. Your kids will learn to think of others, share, and express thanks through these behaviors.

Students need to know that the burden of eradicating poverty isn’t simply theirs. While their excellent deeds and taxes, and charitable organizations reduce homelessness, poverty, and food insecurity, it’s about altering the system and society so that fewer vulnerable individuals are left behind. As a result, voting is an essential lesson you can impart to your children here.

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