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While kids aren’t expected to hold jobs or pay bills, in today’s economy it's natural for them to worry about money just like the adults in their lives do. Based on their family’s financial situation, along with their unique personality and temperament characteristics, some kids may feel more stressed than others in this tough economic climate.
Here are some tips parents can follow to help their kids feel more at ease:
- Find out what's on their minds: Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your child is affected by a tough issue without asking. Don’t wait for signs of concern or worry; just ask them what they have heard about the financial situation and what they know. Look for an opening while you are in the car together or sitting at dinner. You might open with something like, “I know that some parents don’t have as much money to spend on camps and vacations this summer. Are any of your friends affected? What have you heard about the way that people are spending money these days? Do you have any worries or concerns? Sometimes just sharing her story with you can help lighten her load.
- Show you care and understand. Being interested in your child's concerns shows they're important to you, too, and helps children feel supported and understood. While you may feel your financial issues (like paying the mortgage) are bigger or more important than his, make sure your child knows that you understand his feelings and problems. Not being able to attend baseball camp may be as troubling to him as making a late credit card payment is to you. This might be an ideal opportunity to share some stories about your own childhood and frustrations you experienced about not being able to get some of the things you wanted. Children tend to love hearing stories about their parent’s childhood, and they will be reassured that you “get it” and you will listen to their concerns, big and small.
- Be honest and reassuring about your family’s situation. When kids hear stories about hardships other people have experienced, they tend to worry that the same thing will happen to them. If you’re trying to cut back on expenses, but you’re reasonably sure you’re not going to lose your job or your house, make sure your children know this. While it’s ok to let your child know you need to spend less money, be as reassuring as you possibly can about the fact that she’s going to have a safe place to live, clothes to wear, and food to eat. Make sure she knows that her grown-ups are going to do everything they can to keep her safe, healthy, and happy.
- Let your kids be part of the solution. Kids often feel out of control when it comes to family finances which can be a stressful position for them to be in. Empower them by finding ways to get involved in helping your family save money (turning off lights when they’re not in use, having family movie nights at home instead of going to the theater, or visiting the library instead of buying new books). You can even let kids get involved in making a difference on a more global scale by spending time as a family volunteering at a food bank or homeless shelter.
- Be a good role model. The most powerful lessons we teach kids are the ones we demonstrate. Your response to your own financial worries can go a long way toward teaching your kids how to deal with their concerns. If you're rattled or angry when talking about money, your child will learn anger as a normal response to stress. You have an opportunity to teach them about the value of “using your words” and sharing something that is troubling you to caring people in your life. Model a positive coping strategy by expressing concern (in an age-appropriate way) and letting your children know that there are solutions and you (and they) can problem-solve together. Responding with optimism and confidence teaches children that problems can be fixed and that the future is bright and showing your children a can-do attitude will help them adopt the same.
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