Source: Sherman Publications

Joe From The Block
Our kids know whats going on

September 07, 2011

I worked on Labor Day, but I did not really mind. Writing is not work for me. Besides, I am thankful for having a full-time job.

There are far too many people here and elsewhere who are struggling to find work these days. Their prospects are not the greatest either, considering last week’s dismal employment report from the U.S. government said job growth was flat in July, which is scary.

That means as many people lost their positions as those that landed new jobs. This is the first time in nearly a year that such a situation existed. Employment levels are at their lowest since the 1940s.

This news should be a severe wake-up call for the so-called experts in this country who think the recession ended in 2009.

With national unemployment hovering just above nine percent and our state’s figure significant higher, one has to wonder what it will really take to jumpstart hiring again. (In Michigan, some 235,000 people have been unemployed for six months or longer.) Right now, nobody is confident that the folks in Washington have any idea what to do.

But that is not what concerns me the most. Last month, the twenty-second annual Kids Count Data Book was published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It reported in 2009 an incredible 36 percent of Michigan’s children are living in families in which neither parent has a full-time, year-round job.

We have more kids without working parents than 46 other states. We did not rank a whole lot better the year before, coming in forty-fourth place.

What’s even more alarming is the study’s finding that the number of children living in poverty in Michigan grew by 64 percent over the past decade – that equates to about 75,000 kids.

No child here, or anywhere, should have to worry about food, shelter or clothes. How can we expect them to focus on learning and preparing for the future when their families are struggling to make ends meet?

Adults who think their kids are unaware of the tension that unemployment brings to a household are clueless. Children today are much more aware and inquisitive of what is going on around them than when I was younger. They may not say much, but they know.

I am not a psychologist, but I am a parent and I know worrying about mom and dad can be distracting, if not unhealthy, for kids over the long-term.

I wonder how many children in our own school district live in families where their parents may be unemployed or, at the very least, underemployed? (I bet a lot.) How do we help these children stay focused, confident and on track to becoming responsible adults?

As parents, it is our duty to figure this out. We surely cannot count on our state or federal leaders to get it done. Fortunately, the people of this great community have always been very generous with their time and money to help family, friends and others facing tough times.

But the buck truly stops with us – these are our kids, after all.

This may mean returning to school ourselves to learn new skills. Or taking our acquired skills in a new direction where there are jobs. Maybe even snagging a part-time position to help pay the bills. I did a while back.

America is struggling this Labor Day. But, our ability to bounce back stronger than ever is something the rest of the world envies. Let’s show our kids how resilient we really are – they deserve it.

That’s just my opinion. What’s yours?