Talking to children about money

Joan Reid, Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences, Granville County
Aug. 19, 2013 @ 10:33 AM


Many families still face economic hardships: unemployment, underemployment, too low a wage on which to live, homelessness, and/or mounds of debt. It’s hard enough for adult individuals/couples, but even more so for families with children.

Some children may feel anxious or depressed. The key is how parents respond. If parents are in constant conflict over money matters, it is more likely that children will be negatively affected. Not handling a loss of income carefully within the family will add an additional layer of stress.

If you live in a two-parent home, it’s important for both adults to agree on how the money is spent and be able to discuss spending/saving rationally, without blame. Here are some tips for handling a child’s concerns:

•Involve the children to the extent they can manage the information.

•Tell the children enough to help them understand your stress and the budgetary reality. Their fears may involve loss of home, friends, change of school or even homeless­ness. You might say: “I am a little worried right now about work and making money. I wanted you to know what’s going on. The main thing to remember is I love you, and I am working on a plan, but I will have to say no to many things that cost money. It’s hard, but we can do this together!”

•Keep the communication door open. Invite your children to ask you what­ever they want.

•Use this as a teachable moment about money management. Invite teens to sit with you while you write out checks to watch your balance decline. Involve them in creating a spending plan — a list of what is needed during the month. Help them re­search the costs for each item.

•Think of ways children can be part of the solution for the family. Ask what cost-cutting ideas they have.

•Praise children for cost-saving practices.

•Decide to spend more time with your family doing just family activities:  ride bikes, take a walk, play cards or board games, cook together.

•Plan and stick to a routine. A calm bedtime routine can be soothing for parent and child — fun bath time, limit­ing television, giving a back rub and reading a book.

•Reassure your children that they are safe and that you have a plan.

•Take care of yourself so you can take care of them. Find some quiet re­laxation time.Find time to think, plan and job hunt. Network. Talk with others.

Source:  Take Control:  Telling the kids we need to spend less! ; NC Cooperative Extension;