This primary PSHEE assembly focuses around the ‘credit crunch’, understanding that, although young children may not understand what it is, they may well have picked up on the negative connotations surrounding it. It therefore attempts to give them advice on how to help at home

Nothing needed

Introduction for teachers
Adult worries about money and job security will inevitably have an effect on children, who pick up on adult moods and conversations. It would be wrong for an assembly to attempt to give unrealistic “everything will be fine” messages to children, but it is possible to reassure children that they could have a part to play by not bringing additional trivial problems home, and by giving positive messages about their own achievements and feelings.

Introduction for students
Do you know what the ‘credit crunch’ is? Well, there are some answers, but to be honest I’m not surprised that some of you are puzzled because I’m not at all clear about it either. What I do know is that over the last few months people all over the world have become less certain about the future. A sort of spiral starts – people stop buying things because they want to hang on to their money, and so fewer things are made, and that means the people who make and sell them might lose their jobs. That means they have less money to spend, and so on it goes. It’s quite a difficult state of affairs to get out of.

You know the effect it has, because you’ve probably experienced it. Adults start to worry about whether they might lose their overtime, or have to work just three days in the week, or maybe lose their jobs altogether. That’s quite a worry, and in many families it’s something they talk about a lot, as they are worried about the future. It might mean that sometimes things get cancelled – holidays, trips out, birthday presents, new clothes – because it seems safer to hang on to money in case it’s needed for really important things, like the mortgage or the rent or the gas bill.

So what can you do to help? That’s what Dino wonders in this story.

Dino thinks he should get a job.

Dino lay awake in his bed. His little brother Jo-Jo was fast asleep, but Dino wasn’t asleep. He was listening. If he listened carefully he could hear his parents talking quietly in the living room, And what he heard was making him upset. He heard his dad say.;

“I’ve had my hours cut again, Maria. That’s a lot less money coming in. I really don’t know what we’ll do. And if I lose my job altogether that really will make things difficult.”

Then Dino heard his mum reply.

“Ah, Alberto, don’t worry before it happens. We’ll manage won’t we? Remember when we were first married? We had no money then, and we were OK.”

There was quiet for a moment, then Dino heard his dad again;

“It was different then. We were young and had no children. Just you and me, and we could go out and find work and do all kinds of things to earn money. Now all we can do is hope.”

Dino lay with his eyes wide open. What if his dad lost his job? Would that mean no money in the house at all? What would they do for food? Dino wondered whether he should try to get a job.

“I’m only seven,” he thought. “But on the TV I see little kids working, making clothes. And Jimmy next door has a paper round. Maybe I could get a paper round. That’s it. I’ll get a paper round like Jimmy. Then I can help my mum and dad.”

The very next day after school, Dino got his mum to let him pop round to the paper shop to get a comic with his pocket money. But while he was in there, he said to Mr Rooprai, the shopkeeper.

“Mr Rooprai, can I do a paper round for you? Please? I would be good at it. Please?”

Mr Rooprai looked over the counter and down at Dino, who was quite small, and said.

“The answer, little Dino, is no.”

Dino’s smile went away and a little tear came in his eye.

Mr Rooprai smiled. He was wise, and he knew what was on Dino’s mind.

“I admire you for asking,” he said. “You are a kind boy, good to your family. But you are too young, and I would be breaking the law if I let you do it. I can’t help. But help yourself to a free chocolate bar for asking so nicely.”

When Dino got home, he found his mum and dad sitting on the settee. Little Jo-Jo was on mum’s lap asleep. They were all quiet, and Dino knew mum and dad were still worried.

Dino climbed on the settee between them, and his dad put his arm round him and looked at him and sighed.

“Don’t be sad, Daddy,” said Dino. “I want to help you. Today I went to get a job.”

“A what?” said his mum.

“A job,” said Dino. “I went to be a paper boy like Jimmy. I asked Mr Rooprai.”

“I only hope he said no,” said his mum. “Jimmy is fifteen for goodness’ sake, and you’re only seven. Please tell me he didn’t let you do it?”

“No,” said Dino. “He said I am a good boy but I am too small. Too young that is. But I do want to help, if you are not getting much money now.”

Mum looked at Dino and this time the tear was in her eye.

And Dino looked at his Dad, and sure enough there was a little tear in his eye too.

“Ah, Dino,” said his Dad. “That’s true what Mr Rooprai said. You are a good boy. But let me tell you something now. Are you listening?”

“Yes, Daddy,” said Dino.

“We do have less money,” said Dad. “And it could get worse. We may have to give some things up that we like. Perhaps we won’t go on holiday this year. Maybe I will have to sell the car. We will eat cheaper food, and not have new clothes and no trips out. But do you know what the most precious things that your mum and I have are?”

Dino was puzzled. Mum’s golden ring perhaps? Dad’s watch that used to be Grandpa’s?

He shook his head. “I don’t know, Daddy.”

“Our most precious treasures, that are more valuable than anything else, are our children; you and Jo-Jo. And we will have you always, bringing love and comfort to us. All you need to do to help us is to have good days at school, and lift our hearts by coming in and telling us your stories and jokes. That’s a reminder to us of what’s really important.”

“I think I can do that, Daddy,” said Dino flashing his big smile.

And that night, Dino didn’t lie awake at all, because he knew he had an important job to do.

Dino’s too young to get a job. But he’s not too young to do his bit by keeping up everyone’s spirits and not adding to his parents’ worries.

When there are worries in the family, the best thing that young people can do is just try to be supportive, and not make more problems around the house, like bickering with your brother or sister. If Dino’s dad has to cancel their holiday, then it looks as if Dino will accept that, because he understands the problem, and he knows that it will disappoint his dad as much as anyone, so there’s not much point in grumbling about it. And one day hopefully things will get better, and Dino’s parents will always remember just how helpful and encouraging Dino was during their time of trouble.

A prayer
Lord, we pray for all families where there is worry and uncertainty about the future. May they be bound together by love, by faith in you, and by hope of better times to come. May we remember that each of us has a part to play in keeping the family working together in a spirit of love and hope.

When you take something good home from school – a good mark, a merit, a commendation, a word of praise, or a story of something that’s pleased you – then you are making a real and valuable contribution to your family’s life.

Things to do
Help children to reflect on the good things, and the positive contribution, they bring into their homes – like a sense of humour, pride in their achievements, hope for the future, help with jobs and care for younger children or older people. Perhaps they can illustrate this in a diagram.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2009

About the author: Gerald Haigh