Overcoming Underemployment

These are challenging times. Unemployment in many countries is high, and often even people who are employed find it hard to earn enough to support themselves and their families with the basic necessities, says Bob Jones, a regional bishops’ storehouse manager in the eastern United States.

Deciding how to overcome this problem is a major life decision. If you are having serious trouble making ends meet and providing the necessities for your family even though you avoid unnecessary debt and spending, or if you are trying to avoid underemployment in the future, here are some options that can help you improve your financial picture.

  1. 1.

    Review your spending habits. Determine how much money you need to survive for one month. Include only necessary expenses—for example, tithing, housing, food, utilities, and commuting expenses. After you make your “survival budget,” make a list of your actual expenses for a month. Compare both lists. Maybe you are spending most of your money for things that aren’t really necessary for survival—and not enough for the things you can’t live without. Changing your spending habits may help you solve your financial problems before they grow too large. A very important question you can ask yourself is if you are paying an honest tithing. The promises God makes are sure: “Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).

  2. 2.

    Upgrade your present job or find a better job. What potential for growth in salary or job upgrade is there in your present employment? Would learning new skills or improving ones you already have increase your chances of receiving a pay raise? Fred Pierce, Jr., a fifteen-year veteran in executive recruitment from Kingwood, Texas, says that a person wanting a better job needs to build a marketing strategy. He suggests determining the kind of job wanted, the salary desired, and the necessary working conditions. “Make a resumé that includes the strengths you possess that will be of benefit in the job you desire. Submit your resumé to the person who will be making the hiring decision. It is amazing the opportunities and jobs that result from knowing what you desire.”

  3. 3.

    Retrain for a better job. You may find that you don’t have the skills necessary for a better job. If that’s the problem, retraining may be necessary. There are programs within the Church that help people gain needed work skills. There are also many qualified schools that hold classes in the evenings or on weekends. Speak to your ward employment specialist or bishop about retraining options available in your community.

  4. 4.

    Take on a second job. In many cases, a second job is viable. “But every individual’s circumstances are different,” Bob Jones says. “For older people, those with physical problems, or single parents, a second job might not work. But in the case of a young, strong person with a spouse at home to handle home challenges, a second job can be a possibility.”

  5. 5.

    Make a career change. “One of the most important considerations when deciding to make a career change is whether it will pay a living wage—that is, a salary that grows through the years,” says Bob Jones. Most people, even college graduates, are going to start working in an entry-level position. Will there be opportunities for advancement in your new career? Use wisdom in your choices, and continue to live within the limits of your paycheck. Changing careers doesn’t automatically ensure a great increase in salary.

Even though we live in challenging times, the payment of an honest tithe, combined with a sound plan and good sense, can help us avoid underemployment as we work toward a sound financial future.Nadeoui Eden, Bowie, Maryland

Everyone Has a Part

Sustained interest in family home evening is a real challenge at our house because of the wide age span of our children. And while we don’t always have outstanding family home evenings, we have discovered some ways to make them more successful.

We have found that preparing for family home evening on a level that the youngest reasoning child can understand, with the older ones doing some of the teaching, storytelling, or directing of games, works best for us.

Some time ago we realized that we weren’t using the Church publications as effectively as we could. So one Monday evening, after we’d begun as usual with a song, a prayer, and family business, Dad invited each of us to choose a current Church publication and to prepare something from it that would interest the whole family. The children went to quiet places throughout the house with their magazines or newspapers. About thirty minutes later we reassembled to share what we had read or done.

The smallest children showed illustrations from the Friend and told us stories about their pictures. One of our teenagers read a stirring missionary account from the Church News, and another read an inspirational short story from the New Era. An older child read a powerful conference address to us from the Ensign. The evening was enjoyable and informative, and everyone participated. This activity and others like it help our children know the value we place on these family get-togethers.Beverly G. Jenkins, Orem, Utah

[photos] Photography by Matthew Reier; photo props by David McDonald

Getting a Jump on Learning

A surprisingly high percentage of children who start school have disabilities—but not in the traditional sense. They may not have mental or physical impairments, but they find school overwhelming for the simple fact that they have not learned how to learn. The truth is that learning itself is a skill that requires forethought, practice, and attention. Parents who understand a few basic learning principles about the art of learning, and who are willing to spend the necessary time and concentration, can help provide their youngsters with a precious gift: the capacity to learn.

Because there is such a wide variety of learning problems, there is no simple formula for increasing a child’s learning potential.

But if you have a pre-schooler, there are some simple ways you can help him or her develop in the conceptual, visual, and hearing areas. Before we talk about those activities, though, let’s review a few basic teaching principles.

First, remember that learning is active, not passive. We don’t receive knowledge: we experience it. A child’s learning capabilities may be impaired unless he or she has some freedom to test the world and its great variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. This might mean putting the pans back in the cupboard every half hour, placing fragile knickknacks out of reach, or a dozen other cleanup activities that tire and frustrate mothers. It doesn’t mean, of course, that you should allow your child to do anything he or she wishes. Exploration should help him or her learn the responsibility of freedom: the cause-effect relationships of the world, the arrangement and order of things, and the consequences that come from making decisions.

Second, make learning fun. Somewhere along the way, people have adopted the notion that learning and drudgery are synonymous. But the opposite is true. A child learns faster and more efficiently if he or she is having fun. I think children learn just as much about math from playing jacks at recess as they do reciting times tables in a classroom. Games, visual aids, field trips, and other activities that you will also enjoy make learning pleasurable.

Third, teach your child using all five of his or her senses. Show her pictures while you read her a story, have him trace the shape of a letter with his finger while he looks at it, or have her touch a furry kitten in addition to hearing and seeing one. Smelling, touching, hearing, tasting, and seeing all work together to help a child form complete concepts about objects.

Fourth, point out detail and differences in objects. Children aren’t naturally able to discern detail and variety. So don’t just point out a cow in a field; describe the yellow-and-brown spotted cow that is standing in a cornfield. Add detail to your instructions around the house: “This plate is round, but our table is square: or “Will you please put your black shoes on the shelf in the bottom of your closet?”

Fifth, and perhaps most important, program your child to succeed. Failure is learning’s greatest enemy. Give your child chances to feel successful. If she can’t catch a ball, then teach her to first catch a pillow. If he can’t get his shoes on the right feet, paint a mark on the sole of the left shoe so he can see the difference more easily.

Once you have these basic principles in mind, you can plan activities that will strengthen specific areas of learning. In the area of conceptual development, an activity like sorting socks helps a child learn to categorize. Helping set the table lets him see patterns. Learning a simple recipe helps her develop a sense of order. And helping put tools away or weeding the garden helps a child distinguish and organize.

Visual skills can be enhanced with any activity that helps a child notice differences in size, shape, or color. Hobbies such as bird-watching or gardening are excellent visual activities. Looking for specific items at the supermarket will also contribute to a child’s visual awareness. Activities that combine visual and motor skills, such as coloring or painting, are especially helpful, since they help a child develop coordination.

Your house and neighborhood are filled with a variety of sounds that you can use to help your child develop hearing perception. Ask questions like: “Is that the doorbell or the timer on the stove?” “Is that Daddy coming up the stairs, or your sister?” You can also make up games that will help in this area. For example, blindfold your child and let her guess which of several people is speaking.

Like other worthwhile achievements, preparing children to learn successfully requires time, patience, and love. Both parents need to give continual and sensitive attention. But the rewards are priceless—in fact, they are eternal.Michael L. Robinson, public information officer and writer, Alpine School District; and LDS counseling specialist, Utah State Prison