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12.3.08

Breaking the news about being broke - snippets of survival

One of the most distressing situations a family could face is to be financially broke. With children's tuition bills, food and household expenses to pay, a negative cash position can bring disaster. Easily. Family members find themselves vulnerable to quick tempers, emotional outbursts and sometimes bouts of depression during times like this. Moments spent instead to find solutions to the problem turn out to be occasions of accusation and finger pointing. Volatile, like a ticking bomb.

Many years back my family faced a similar problem. To ease the burden, I decided to tell my children the real score. I thought they were old enough to understand what we were going through. After all, nothing can beat being straightforward. To my mind, this would be the ultimate test for my children's maturity and lessons learned from what I had always tried to teach them: that in times of adversity, it is how you cope with the situation that will define the result that you want.

Telling them that my job became so stressful that it was affecting my health was one of the most trying times of my life. That I had to leave my job and work instead on a part-time basis made me feel so small. If only I could make them feel secure. No job, no money right? Second, I wanted them to feel that I was responsible more than ever for what is going to happen to us as a family. It is , I am sure a temporary setback.

When I dialogued with my children, I stressed the fact that I was trying to find solutions to our problem and considered addressing three things: those immediately within my capability to resolve; second, doing what I can correct in a limited way, with some help; and finally just leave those we cannot do anything about within the immediate present. My mantra:

1. Completely throw away those that we cannot absolutely do anything about. No need to worry over anything that cannot be changed nor waste time dwelling on them. Discard. Cut losses if need be and then move on. Avoid additional stress.

2. For those items we can limitedly correct with some help, make a list. Share that list. Tackle it with people who can help. There is no place for false pride. Assistance is required. It sure is out there somewhere. Just need to be found and tapped. People are willing to help when they can see that there is an initiative from those in need. Pray. Hope. Have faith.

3. Last but not the least, make the family members understand that this is a collective situation. What's done is done. Agree to support each other's feelings by giving way to understanding and love rather than reproach.

It's been three years and my financial situation remains a work in progress.

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