DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in New York City, and the disparity between the haves and have-nots is so real, it’s scary. We are an average family, but we see now that being middle class almost equals being poor these days. Many of my neighbors packed up and shipped out as soon as news of the pandemic hit our city, which has more cases than anywhere else. It was like a Friday evening in the summer, when everybody goes to the Hamptons or to wherever their country homes are. We don’t have a country home.
A lot of my kids’ friends have left. As they are talking over Snapchat, my kids now realize that most of their friends who once seemed equal to them are actually way better off in their fancy second homes.
How do I keep my kids calm and deal with everything that’s going on when part of it is hard to discuss, including why the disparities are so different from family to family? Suddenly I feel poor and disadvantaged. -- Haves and Have-Nots
DEAR HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS: Continue the conversation that I hope you have been having already, namely that people’s means vary widely, but their value as individuals is not reflected by their bank accounts. Without being envious, it is OK to say that it’s great for those who can afford it to own second homes. There’s nothing wrong with that, nor is it “less than” to have only one home.
Explain to your kids that your family lives based on its means, which may be different from some of their friends. Ask your children to tell you what they feel is important in life. Encourage them to talk about what they care about, what they value and what they are willing to fight for. Point out that these core points are more important than how much money they have.
Also be sure to encourage them to learn to admire what others have without feeling jealous. We are all different.