For millions of families across America, the ongoing pandemic and economic downturn have made foreclosure a very real possibility. Although many states have eviction moratoriums in effect (and the federal government has done so with FHA-insured loans), many of those provisions will run out at the end of 2020. Unless the government takes further action, many families may lose their homes in a matter of months.
The threat of foreclosure affects everyone in the household—children as well as parents. While there are steps you can take to avert this action, the question remains: What do you say to the children? How do you address this difficult situation without putting adult-level stresses on the kids?
Don't Spring It on Them
No one wants to break the news that the family is being evicted from their home—but it's even harder on the children if you wait until the last minute to do so. If foreclosure is a real possibility, it's best to let the children know sooner rather than later. Since foreclosure doesn't happen overnight, you can prepare yourself mentally for it. Your children deserve the same courtesy.
Take Age into Account
Young children probably won't grasp the idea of foreclosure in general, so there's no need to try to explain it all to them. Instead, phrase it in terms they'll understand—for example, “We may need to move to a new home that's easier for us to afford.” For older children and teenagers, you can be a little more specific about what's happening and why, what you're doing to avoid foreclosure, and what you plan to do if the foreclosure does happen. Just put it in terms they're more likely to understand.
Be Honest, But Reassuring
Children are more perceptive than we think. Even if you never talk about money in front of the kids, they can usually tell when their parents are worried or stressed—and they tend to take on that worry if they feel Mom or Dad is keeping something from them. At the same time, the fear of foreclosure is hard enough for grown-ups, and the children don't need to carry that burden, especially considering they have no power to do anything about it. So when telling your children about the possibility of foreclosure, try to balance honesty with assurance. Be upfront about the possibility of moving, but try to assure them that they'll be safe and cared for no matter what happens. The goal is to prepare them without passing your own worries onto them. If you're taking steps to avoid foreclosure, it's okay to let them know that, too, so they know there's hope.
Keep Living Life
Finally, during this time of uncertainty, try to maintain your normal daily routines—or at least, as close to “normal” as you can in the midst of the current pandemic. The sense of normalcy will help your children be more at ease as you take steps to avoid foreclosure, rather than living in a state of dread.
In the meantime, remember that foreclosure is not a foregone conclusion. There are steps you can take, including legal ones, to avoid losing your home. The advice of an experienced attorney can help. Give our office a call to explore your options.