How The Government Shutdown Is Impacting Kids and 4 Ways You Can Help

by: Charise Rohm Nulsen
The government shutdown is having a major impact on American families, especially kids. Here's how you can help.
dad and baby peering into fence of the white house

No matter where you turn right now, news of the government shutdown is everywhere. People are talking about how it affects government workers and airport security lines and the related politics, but there is one area that is not getting enough focus right now. The government shutdown is having a major impact on our children.

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Here are five ways kids are feeling the effects of the shutdown:

1. Kids’ views of the world and their feelings of security are being shaken up.

Children who have parents on furlough or who have parents working without receiving a paycheck are feeling less secure. It is hard for kids to understand how a parent with a job formerly thought of as dependable and important could now be expected to work without receiving any money in return. This fundamentally goes against everything children have learned about work and how we participate in society. When children are exposed to sudden inequity and injustice that affects the entire family, this can impact their core value system and how they view the world.

2. Children are hungry.

Families of government employees are feeling the pinch without paychecks, and some families are experiencing a level of need that they may not have experienced before. Local food pantries are dealing with waves of families coming in that goes far beyond the number of families usually serviced. Pop-up food pantries are trying to ease the burden. For families that were receiving food assistance on a regular basis before the shutdown, they have to make the food stamps they received in January last through rationing. Subsidized school lunches could also run out soon. With many children suddenly eating less and having decreased access to food, the ramifications are highly affecting their susceptibility to getting sick this winter season and impacting their ability to learn in school.

Here are some guidelines on what you should and shouldn't donate to your local food pantry:

3. Children’s play spaces and safe spaces are now limited.

The places where children play and are cared for are affected by the shutdown, as are places where families planned to spend time together. National parks and many museums are closed right now affecting long-awaited vacations and outings planned by families. Government-run preschools and daycare facilities are closed leaving children without their routines and dedicated play spaces while also leaving families scrambling to find childcare and to make new schedules work.

4. Babies may have a more challenging start to life.

WIC is safe at the moment, but if the shutdown drags on, eight million new mothers, infants, and kids under the age of five will be greatly affected. Beyond the food assistance that WIC dollars pay for, the program also spends millions of dollars on breastfeeding support and infant formula. Every parent knows how essential these things are to a child’s healthy start to life, and parents now have to live with fear that this may be taken away soon. That means they have to ration infant formula and feel the stress of feeding support being taken away which also has a huge impact on the emotional life of mothers and little ones.

5. Children are losing the presence and security of the non-government workers in their lives.

With government workers not receiving paychecks, they are unable to pay the nannies and babysitters and children’s activity teachers that their children are used to being with on a daily and weekly basis. The grown-ups that our children count on are suddenly and swiftly being removed from their lives. This leaves children feeling confused and abandoned, not to mention the stressful impact on parents which trickles down to children.

How You Can Help:

  • Do what you can to keep your local food pantries stocked. Families are depending on these resources more than ever and they are in constant need.
  • If you own a business or have influence at a local business, consider offering free resources for a predetermined period of time for families affected by the shutdown. Local restaurants are offering free lunches and slices of pizza, and there is much to be offered with this kind of generosity.
  • Offer childcare and to host extra playdates for families affected by the shutdown in your neighborhood.
  • Call and e-mail your government representatives to share the stories of how you or the people you know are being affected by the shutdown and demand that they do everything in their power to put a stop to this and to help the community.

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