Discussing Money Problems with Children

Personal Finance July 15, 2010 Print Friendly and PDF

When money becomes scarce, the whole family, from young children to teens to parents, can feel the pinch. Though family members may have limited or no control over the causes of their financial difficulties, they can control their responses and discuss money problems in a way that minimizes stress and anxiety in children.

• Parents can turn tough times into learning situations. Help children realize that managing money in tough times requires communication, patience and hard work. Also, assist children to understand that money problems do not need to rob the family of unity or happiness, simple things that cost little or nothing can enrich family life and sticking together is essential to getting through challenges.

• Parents and other adults should model how the family can have fun together in less expensive ways. Model for children the value of fun, inexpensive ways to enjoy each other, such as a picnic at the park, renting a video and making popcorn, riding bicycles as a family, volunteering on a service project or other family activities.

• Increase family communication and solidarity and help children feel some control in their lives. Take time to communicate regularly, discuss financial concerns appropriately and express to all family members that they are loved and appreciated.

• Involve all family members in making decisions about money. In both tough times and good times, families tend to draw closer as they work together and communicate in making money decisions. Children grow in understanding and self-worth when they contribute to the resolution of financial problems. This may involve a teen getting a part-time job or children agreeing to limit their requests for outside entertainment, such as movies.

• Assist children to become wise consumers and discipline their spending habits. During tough times, children can learn to be wise about their spending choices and use discipline in how they spend money.

• Encourage children to contribute in ways that are appropriate to their age. Children can help during tough times by saving money they earn, limiting their spending choices or requests, or contributing income from a part-time job to help with family needs. Do not put undue burdens on children to generate economic support, but discuss options and allow them to contribute in ways that are meaningful.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.