In this uncertain economic climate, you’re probably changing how you spend your money, but if you think your children don’t notice – or that you are hiding your stress from them – think again. Most likely, your children are well aware of your family’s circumstance so, if you don’t explain, they can easily worry unnecessarily.

Be straightforward with your children. As a parent, you set the tone for everyone in the family.  Staying positive and standing ready to address concerns minimizes emotional downturns and helps everyone get through the stress.

Be aware that some children find it difficult to cope with financial stress; their moods or eating and sleeping habits may change. Any concerns should be addressed with your child’s doctor. Financial stress impacts everyone, even the youngest members of our families.

Guidelines for a Family Financial Discussion

  • First, ask your children to tell you what they think is going on. You may be surprised at how much they know.
  • Have a rational discussion about spending changes you need to implement, especially those that impact the kids. Provide specific examples, such as cutting back on eating out, cell phone usage or buying new video games.
  • Whatever your children’s ages, it is very important that they trust that their basic needs will be met. Reassure your kids that they will have a place to live and food to eat and that you will be there to look out for them. Emphasize teamwork and that you will all get through the tough times together.
  • Look at these times as an opportunity. We are a highly consumptive culture, and we often spoil our children. If you’ve been saying “yes,” the economic crisis provides a chance to say “no” and teach your children to handle disappointment while adopting a more sustainable lifestyle for the future.
  • Ask your children for their ideas and what they would be willing to do. Children like to help the family. They can:
    • Shut off lights and faucets to save energy, water and money.
    • Bring lunches instead of buying at school several days each week.
    • Use some of their allowance to help pay for things your budget can no longer afford – their cell phones or that extra pair of sneakers that’s not really necessary.
    • Help with cost-saving family activities like clipping coupons, planning menus or renting movies instead of going out.
  • Limit your children’s exposure to the news or watch and comment alongside. The constant bombardment of “breaking news” can produce anxiety. Keep lines of communication open and revisit these topics as necessary.