With the ongoing financial crisis, many parents are stressed out and worried. Even fleeting contact with TV and radio news — or overhearing money-related conversations between parents — may make kids anxious, too. Children tend to pick up on what’s going on around them, even when it’s not being talked about directly. Without clear information from you, your child may be imagining things are far worse than they actually are.
Reassure and be honest
Because children and teens need stability and predictability, it’s helpful to talk, in age-appropriate terms, about how your family is doing.
“First, reassure your child about what is not at risk, depending on your family’s situation. For example, “we’re not going to be homeless, we can go to the doctor when we need to, we will still have plenty to eat.”
Then, if your family is cutting back on spending, be honest with your child about what will change. This is a perfect time to talk about making choices where money is concerned and the difference between “need” and “want.” Share with your child what you’re doing to reduce personal expenses — skipping that daily latte, spending less on clothing or activities. Older children may want to have some say in which of their
favorite “extras” get cut. Where possible, involve them in making sound choices.
Model coping skills
Affirm that you will get through this situation together, but that it is an adult problem.
You may need to monitor your own stress level. It can be helpful to turn off the TV and radio “talking heads” for a while and get support from friends, family, counselor, or call the Parent Trust Family Help Line at 800-932-HOPE (4673). Just as this is an opportunity to teach your child about making thoughtful choices where money is concerned, it’s also a chance to model and teach good coping skills in general.
These are important lifelong skills, and will foster good financial habits that can serve your child well in adulthood.
One thing is for sure in this life: There will be ups and downs. While we can’t guarantee happiness for our children or control the world around us, we can teach our children good skills for coping with the twists and turns life offers. This is one of those opportunities.