Talking to Your Kids About the Family Finances
Sharing the family checkbook isn’t something that a lot of parents are comfortable with - and for good reason. It can be difficult to explain the ins and outs of keeping the family afloat and how money is spent and saved.
Still, kids are pretty smart, and even if you’re doing your best to shelter them from the news and buzz about the economy and unemployment, they’ve no doubt been touched by it in some way, be it a friend whose parent has lost a job or who is moving because they can’t keep their home; kids know and understand a lot more than what we think. It’s possible that you’ve even talked about the economy’s current situation without realizing that little ears are listening in.
Even if your family isn’t being affected by the economic crisis, there’s no better time to explain to them what’s going on in the world and how your family is saving and spending together. It’s better to have the conversation when things are good and money is not an issue than to have a crisis hit and try to help them understand the change in your household’s lifestyle.
I’ve had to do this in my own house recently. We’ve always taught the kids that money doesn’t grow on trees, but a couple of months ago we had to tighten our belts even more. I blogged and whined about it over at The Guilty Parent (it was a moment of blog frustration and weakness really). What I didn’t say there that I AM saying here is:
You Can’t Be Afraid to Talk to Kids about Money.
You simply can’t. Kids are like mood rings or some kind of telepathic, psychic beings. They know when something is off on the home front. They’ll pick up on the stress that you’re carrying around.
Kids should have some idea of how money is treated in your house long before a crisis strikes and the good news is that you don’t have to tell them EVERYTHING. You choose what to share and what not to share. The information you share should be appropriate for their age and maturity level.
First and foremost, be honest with your kids. If times are getting tough, let them know that some things need to change. Try to be specific if you’re telling them that you’re finding ways to save money. For instance, if you’re changing your weekly dinner out to a monthly dinner out, let them know that.
Reassure them that things are going to be OK. If your kids are old enough to understand, tell them what you and your spouse are doing to make sure that things are going to be fine. If you’re picking up extra hours at work, let them know what to expect.
Give them ideas and ways that they can help out when it comes to saving money. Kids like to be involved and take pride in being able to help where they can. Suggest free or frugal activities that your family can do together and ask your kids for their recommendations as well. Some frugal suggestions may be to rent movies and books from the library instead of the video store, nature hikes, or family game nights to substitute a trip to the arcade. Odds are that your kids will jump at the chance to be a part of the family and part of the decision-making process.
Let them know that you value what they think and be open to their questions. Kids of all ages will undoubtedly have concerns and even though their worries may seem silly to you, don’t dismiss their concerns or scoff at them. They need to know that you understand that their worries are real and that you take them seriously.
No matter how rough it may get, reassure your kids that you love them and that you and your spouse are doing everything you can to protect and care for them. When it comes to talking to kids about the tough subjects, a little honesty and reassurance can go a long way towards squelching their fears and making them feel important.