Tips: Talking to Your Children About Homelessness

posted by Kristin Williamson

November 13, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

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Homelessness might not look the way you think it does.

This week we are observing National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week (November 10-18).

What face comes to mind when you think about homelessness? Most of us think of middle-aged men, but there are many others that are affected by homelessness. Like families. Like the young mother and her baby? A single father and his teenage daughters. The family of four that is down on its luck.

Did you know that every school in Richland School District One has at least one homeless child? Homelessness is an issue that we cannot avoid or shield our children from, and there are things we can do to help our children understand the issue of homelessness and instill compassion in their perspectives.

  • Encourage Empathy. Be sure that your children understand that there are many reasons why people are homeless and it affects all ages and types of people. Comments such as: “I think it’s sad that person doesn’t have a place to live,” will offer some perspective.
  • Teach compassion. Never put down a person for being homeless or having less. Instead, focus on the facts. There are many people who have problems or are down on their luck and there are services available to help them.
  • Settle on your message. When you encounter homeless people, are you concerned for the person’s well-being or annoyed to be hassled? Consider the values you are communicating and be conscious about the message your actions send to your children.
  • Recognize teaching moments. If you come across a homeless person, pass a homeless shelter or see a report on poverty on TV, ask your child what he thinks the word ‘poor’ or ‘homeless’means. Such conversations might give you an opportunity to clear up misconceptions.
  • Explain your action or inaction. Whether you offer money or food to homeless people or avoid doing so, let your child in on why. You might say something like “I’ll buy them a sandwich but I won’t give them money, because sometimes people don’t spend money in ways that will help them. This way I know it’s going to help.” Or you could say, “No I don’t give money to people on the street, but I give money to programs that will help them.”
  • Get involved. For ideas on getting your family involved in helping the homeless check out 35 Ways You Can Help the Homeless.

Shelters supporting families, women and children in the Midlands:

Richland County

Lexington and Fairfield Counties

For a complete list of homeless services, soup kitchens and food banks by county in South Carolina, visit: http://www.sciway.net/org/sc-homeless.html

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