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Talking to Kids About Family Finances During a Crisis

From Ease@Work, 2009


Talk to any “Jane” or “Joe” on the street and chances are they’ll be in agreement that money’s tight and they’re feeling financially strained.  In the words of one university’s report, “There’s hardly a family that will escape the steadily growing financial crisis that is gripping much of our nation.”

Children have concerns about current financial situation, too. They hear scary words on the news such as ‘foreclosure’ or ‘depression’.  Many wonder why the grown up people on the news are crying – maybe they’ve lost a home or their job.  Or, perhaps something kids can relate to even more…imagine the fear a child may have when they see someone who has had to give up a beloved pet because of a move.  And, while some younger children may not understand news reports, they do notice when parents are uneasy about spending or finances.

Now is the time to begin talking to your children about what is happening out in the financial world and how it might impact your family.

Parents who are open and honest, without resorting to fearful dialogue, can instill a sense of security in children by openly talking about the situation.  If there’s an honest dialogue about how the whole family can help out, you might be surprised at how willing your children are to making adjustments.  Having a family meeting is a good way to get everyone involved in a discussion about financial health.

Explaining the Facts

Don’t share your fears.  Make sure you are calm and comfortable before you open any serious discussion about money.  Rehearse what you’ll say and ease your own worries beforehand by talking with a friend.

Be consistent.  Emphasize familiarity, continuity and the comfort of simple routines.  This will reassure everyone that some things still remain within your control.

Be heard, not overheard.  No matter how big or small your financial problems, don’t discuss the painful details unless you are certain your children are out of earshot.

Identify what matters.  Don’t hide any concrete changes that might disrupt your kids’ lives — changing schools, having to move to a smaller house — but assure them that as a family you will make the most of it.

Give them some power.  Challenge your children to help you find ways to save more or budget better.  Let them have a voice about which things the family can cut back on.

Disconnect.  Turn the TV off; constantly exposing children to hyped-up headlines and downbeat news is bad for the psyche.

A Childcare specialist can help employees to prepare for a conversation with children and can also help in a practical way by exploring less expensive childcare options.

Sources of information above include The University of Wisconsin Extension-Pepin County and http://www.kiplinger.com

– end of article

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