How To Talk To Kids About Money Problems
How can we be reassuring yet honest with our children? Here are some lessons I've learned observing good managers that parents can apply when talking to their kids about personal money problems.
Find safe outlets where you can fall apart. When you're enduring a crisis, you need to seek people out who can help you regain perspective. If you have a place to vent your anxieties, you're better able to show your kids that you're in control. Save comments such as "I don't know what we'll do if I lose my job" or "How are we going to make the house payments?" for private conversations when kids are safely out of earshot.
Find the middle ground, somewhere between the-sky-is-falling and everything is just peachy. Gloom and doom does no one any good. Children crave stability. The message they need to hear: "Times are tough but we're gong to be fine."
Don't over-explain. Answer their questions and respond to concerns. For example, you may be worried about your college savings, but your ten year-old daughter is not likely to lose sleep over it.
Focus on what you have control over and leave the forces outside your influence alone. For example, explain "We're gong to have to find activities that don't cost money."
Find the opportunity. Plan a fun outing to a thrift store. Make Halloween costumes instead of buying them. Save on electricity by lighting the house with candles.
Teach gratitude and social activism. This is a great time to teach kids to be grateful for what they have and to help people less fortunate. As a family, bring canned goods to a food bank, make lunches for a homeless facility, or adopt a family to buy presents for at Christmas time.
Undo consumerism. Kids can learn important lessons that they don't always get what they want. It's a good time to set limits--say no to the ipod, the toys, the new backpack.
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