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Family First with FOX43: COVID-19 causing money worries; how to protect your kids' well-being

With millions across the country struggling financial amid the COVID-19 health crisis, the pandemic can also take an emotional toll on your children.

COVID-19 has forced businesses to shut their doors, and the downturn of the American economy has started to erode many American's retirement savings. Adults, however, are not the only ones feeling the financial pinch this pandemic is causing.

Children can be just as emotionally impacted by the novel Coronavirus health crisis as their parents, according to Dr. Kimberly Renk, a clinical psychologist at the University of Central Florida.

Dr. Renk started studying the mental health of young kids after the economic recession a decade ago. Her team of social scientists recruited 119 families with young children. More than half of the families earned less than $50,000 a year. Those parents reported economic pressures, like having a tough time finding a job or difficulty paying bills.

They also filled out questionnaires which measured parenting stress, like how the financial strain impacted the way they interacted with children.

"The more economic impacts that they had, the more parenting stress occurs and then in turn, the more difficulties their little ones were having," Dr. Renk said.

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When parents had higher stress, Renk said kids started displaying either internalizing behaviors, like increased anxiety, or externalizing behaviors, like agitation or acting out. Dr. Renk added it's important to remember young kids hear and understand much more than parents tend to give them credit for.

Parents should talk to their kids about money stress, she says, and reassure them their needs will be met.

"Tell them, 'It’s not something you have to worry about. That’s mom’s job. That’s dad’s job. That’s the grownups’ job to make sure we have what we need, and I’m working really hard at that.'"

Doctor Renk also suggests parents feeling money stress should talk to others about their financial situations, not just their kids. A parent's close social network can help with emotional support, even if it can get awkward talking about money.

Also, Renk says, make sure you are getting adequate sleep and exercise.