Kids of federal workers turn shutdown anxiety into business savvy

Kids impacted by gov't shutdown get creative

As hundreds of thousands of parents are out of work or working without pay as the government shutdown enters its 27th day, across the country, children are feeling the trickle-down effects and the added stress of their parents missing paychecks.

Some kids see that as a way to pitch in — and they're coming up with creative ways to help their families and their communities.

When 9-year-old Tiger Blaylock of Arlington, Virginia, found out about the government shutdown, he had an idea.

"I am hating this shutdown. This shutdown has caused a lot of punishments to a lot of families," Blaylock said. "It just popped up in my head one day and I thought I'm creative enough to do this."

With his mom Sunny out of work as a government contractor and his dad, a Foreign Service officer, working without pay, Tiger wanted to do something to help his family.

"I just want to fix the government and pay our bills by selling my art," Tiger said.

A budding illustrator, one of Tiger's drawings has already sold for $200. But his mom has mixed emotions and is looking forward to a return to normalcy.

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"It's just been a really demoralizing time for our family," Sunny Blaylock said. "No matter what I say to them, 'we're going to be OK, that you know we have a small cushion, that we have family to fall back on' they still have to express that."

Fifth-grader Bella Berrellez from North Potomac, Maryland, turned her shutdown anxiety into business confidence.

"I was a little bit worried but I think when I found out an idea I was just really committed and was like I'm gonna do this and I'm gonna help," she said.

Bella started making, and selling, homemade sugar scrubs when her mom was furloughed from the Food and Drug Administration. She's already sold more than 400 scrubs online and to neighbors. Because Bella's father is still working, they've decided to donate proceeds from Bella's business to a food bank helping others affected by the shutdown.

"I want my mom to go back to work, but I love doing the sugar scrubs and I intend to do it after the government shuts down, but yeah, I do want my mom to go back to work," Bella said.

Developmental psychologist Heather Sandstrom said when parents are under severe financial strain, it can affect their children's mental health.

"In those moments children are at risk," Sandstrom said. "Children are receptive to emotions … when the parents are strong, resilient, they have these coping strategies, when they can try to find ways to make ends meet, they can help their children and provide support to them in ways that children might not otherwise have."

For Tiger Blaylock, the answer to his frustration is simple. 

"I do not care if the wall is built or not. I just want the government to not be shut down."

For these kids, the shutdown is not about politics. It's about making sure their parents are okay.

As for the parents — both Tiger's mom and Bella's mom said they're worried one unintended effect of the long shutdown could be to drive public servants like them out of government for good.