Talking to Kids About Poverty, Hunger

posted by Kristin Williamson

September 14, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  • Email
  • Share

Last night, the leading stories on the national news focused on two disturbing issues: the growing number of Americans living in poverty and the harrowing drought and famine facing countries in Africa. The news paints real pictures of families that could live right down the street from you, struggling to find work and keep their homes come to mind. And of starving families who have lost their homes and face cholera, measles. Dying by the numbers every day.

Thinking about these issues from a child’s perspective – putting myself into the shoes of a young person – Kit Kittredge, a young, depression-era character comes to mind. The day her father lost his job at the car dealership and had to leave home to find work … when her mother began renting out rooms in their house and how Kit felt about her family selling eggs from the backyard to help make ends meet. Or memories of singing ‘We Are The World’ in my fourth grade music class at Hammond School – 10,000 miles away from Africa and the devastation facing millions. While I didn’t really understand what was happening there, it was clear that it was bad and that a bunch of people were coming together to help. Still, the affects of being told to eat my peas because there were starving children in Africa wore off quickly.

It’s difficult to really understand these complex issues, even for adults. And while we can’t shield our children from the realities facing our world, there are opportunities to help them make heads or tails of these issues and the effect they on others.

  1. Make it relevant. Sometimes it’s hard for kids to relate to people that clearly live in a very different world than the one they know. But all children, regardless of where or how they live, love their parents, like to play with their friends and deserve to feel safe, like we do. Breaking down the basics of how we are similar to those that might look or live differently can help kids relate.
  2. Take advantage of teachable moments. If you see an example of poverty in our community or a relevant topic of human welfare on the news, engage your child on the topic. Ask them what they think poverty means, why some people are hungry or how hard they thing it is to find a job. Conversations like these often offer an opportunity to clear up misconceptions and share perspective.
  3. Encourage empathy. We know that every school in Richland School District 1 has at least one homeless student. Poverty is a very real issue in our community, there are many reasons why and it affects people of all ages and types. Help your children find compassion for others. Comments like, “it’s sad that some families are struggling to pay their bills,” will help.
  4. Offer reassurance. Many of the issues we’re facing today are scary. War, poverty, hunger, drought, illness. In the wake of these conversations, be sure to provide comfort to your children and explain how your family would handle situations in the event of crisis.

Looking for ways your family can help fight hunger both locally and internationally?

We’d love to hear about other ways you’re helping your children understand complex issues like poverty and hunger. Let us know!

Comments are closed.