Learning Through the Recession [Teen Article]

Stephanie is a sophomore in high school residing in suburban New Jersey. She loves free-writing and dreams of traveling the world.

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A few weeks ago I talked about what teens are doing with their summers and briefly discussed the impact of the recession on these very summer plans. But is a teenager’s summer fun the only thing that has been affected by the slump our economy is in? Everything from how teens dress to how they feel about their peers has changed due to the recession. In today’s times, many families are forced to keep an eye on their spending tendencies. The cash that used to pay for expensive brand names, weekend getaways, lavish sweet sixteen parties, and the latest electronics may no longer be available. For some teens, this fact can be difficult to deal with and even disturbing. Even parents don’t like it. Who likes telling their child “no” when they ask for something they really want?

The effects of the recession aren’t all negative, though. In fact, many kids are really benefiting from it by learning how to be more financially responsible (e.g. buying clothes that are on sale, agreeing to stay home some weekends to save $$$, etc). True, teenagers can’t always buy what’s hot in stores, but they ARE getting a better understanding of how to save their money for future use. It’s impossible for them not to – if teens aren’t learning how to be financially savvy through watching the news, they’re talking about it with their parents, friends, or learning how to on the internet or even in school. Last year I didn’t have a single class that failed to mention something about the recession. One of the courses I took, Business and Careers, took on a whole new perspective because of the recession. Nearly every project we were assigned involved learning about saving money, dealing with debt, or understanding the nature of the stock market. I learned a whole heck of a lot about managing my finances that year than I ever had in my life!

Socially, teens aren’t as harsh as they used to be on one another, either. Because the recession has affected everyone, all teens feel the pinch. They understand one another better.  There’s a lesser distinction of who’s “poor” and who’s “rich” – it’s understood that not everyone can afford a closet full of Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister clothing. Girls especially are turning to more wallet-friendly stores like Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe to get the clothes they want for much less than the products in name-brand shops. Now that there’s less pressure to have all of the latest gadgets and styles, teenagers can feel a little more comfortable and confident around each other at school knowing that they’re not alone in this short period of struggle.

Another positive effect of the recession has teens becoming healthier and wiser in their eating habits. OK – junk food still exists and kids still love it – but with the pressure to cut down on costs, more families are cooking home-made dinners that offer healthy food options. After school, instead of begging to stop by a fast-food chain to pick up a greasy burger, kids usually have to settle for whatever’s in the refrigerator at that moment. Even if food at home is not exactly “healthy”, at least you know exactly what you’re eating as opposed to the mystery ingredients in restaurant meals.  Parents – take advantage of this opportunity to start buying healthier choices at supermarkets when you go shopping for food. Since you’re less likely to buy a lot of groceries or make frequent trips to the supermarket, you and your kids will have to eat the healthy stuff at home.  (That’s not such a bad thing, either – healthy food CAN taste good!!)

Of course, the recession isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Teens face plenty of stress knowing they can’t buy the things they want all the time and have difficulty finding summer or part-time jobs. As tough as it is for your family, don’t let the strain get you down. Consider the positive and take the opportunity to relax and reassess your goals and plans for the future. Before we know it, both teens are parents will be well on their way to living a financially responsible lifestyle in an economy that is slowly but surely getting back on its feet again.

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