The government has shut down and suspended services deemed non-essential. With no end in sight, a shuttered government hits families a number of ways so it’s important to try to maintain as normal a routine as possible for children.

In the greater Washington, DC, area, the shutdown has affected everyone in small and big ways — accessibility to some landmarks and museums to tourists or reduced customer flow to restaurants and other businesses by federal workers are damaging the economy. 

With use and access to services stopped, even a drive through popular Rock Creek Park may become challenging. Children of furloughed workers may seem to have difficulty in regulating their emotions with some children appearing more clingy or crying at the prospect of being left with a new childcare provider or complaining more about headaches and stomachaches.

Tips for helping your children cope with the shutdown

From getting dressed every morning as if headed to work to maintaining the same meal times, it’s important to keep kids in a routine as much as possible. Here are a few other ideas: 

  • Parents should be frank about their own concerns, expressing in an age-appropriate way how they feel, while reassuring children that you have a plan for how the family will manage.
  • Avoid discussing any scary things in front of the kids, but role model positive strategies even if there are uncertainties about how it impacts your household.

Be proactive. Let children know that sometimes when adults are worried, they talk to someone they care about or do something to distract themselves such as reading or walking. That models for kids that even in the face of stress the parents have things under control. It models how to handle their feelings and helps kids learn how to handle a stressful situation.

Kids can pick up on their parents’ stress, and while the shutdown may not be a pleasant occasion for adults, make it fun for children, perhaps focusing on fun activities or long overdue projects you can complete together. 


Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two girls.

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