Although we avoided another government shutdown, we remain painfully aware of the economic impact the month-long shutdown has had on the 800,000+ government workers, contractors, and their families. The fact that this all began on the heels of the Christmas holiday seemed particularly callous. What many thought would amount to a few extra days off work, instead stretched out to more than a month out of work. Faced with another possible shutdown, jobs that used to be regarded as stable, and for many an entree into the middle-class, are now associated with disdain and instability. Economic uncertainty for many has, sadly, become the new norm. The economic impact of shutdowns can be calculated in dollars and cents, but it is difficult to quantify the psychological impact these disruptions can have on the workers, their families, and, especially, their children.
We know that children thrive in an atmosphere where there is certainty and consistency. Being able to depend upon one’s environment for comfort, shelter, and sustenance are the necessities that all children need. When families are faced with economic uncertainties, stress and anxiety may be the unfortunate outcomes. This stress and instability within the family can have a deleterious impact upon children, negatively affecting their sense of security and stability.
The negative impact of the government shutdown goes without question. However, what else might children be learning? Might they also learn about resilience? Resilience is defined “as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity” (American Psychological Association).
Organizations and neighbors have banded together to help their families. Their own families may have volunteered to assist other people in need. World-renowned chefs have cooked meals for their families, churches have been providing food and care packages, and day care centers have been trying to work out payment plans so families can pay their bills. Children may have observed that, despite difficult times, people can come together and provide one of the most powerful and protective measures to counteract stress and anxiety: a caring and supportive social system.
We hope that the government continues to remain open so that government workers, contractors, and their children can move forward working and leading productive and healthy lives.
— Dianna E. Washington, PhD, Chair, Education and Children’s Policy Task Force