Talking to kids about financial struggles

In today’s economy, many families are experiencing financial struggles. If your family’s finances have taken a hit, talk to your kids in an honest manner about what is happening, and reassure them you have a plan to tackle your problems.

Explain in age-appropriate terms

Let your kids ask questions

Kids will worry — especially if changes are happening (such as losing the family car, moving out of your house and into an apartment or cutting back on entertainment and extracurricular activities). Let your children ask questions about their concerns and answer them as openly and honestly as you can.

Whether you have lost your job, are facing foreclosure of your home or need to make significant cutbacks in your family’s budget, you need to talk to your kids honestly and in age-appropriate terms.

With older kids and teens, you can talk about the economy and how it’s affecting your family financially. With younger kids, talk in broader, general terms they can understand rather than getting into specifics. Don’t lie to your kids about what’s happening or get into more debt because you are trying to hide your financial struggles. Make your explanations brief and clear, providing additional details about the changes that are going to directly affect your kids.

If you try to cover up your financial woes, your children will eventually discover what’s happening. Explaining your lies will be much more difficult than explaining the current situation now.

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Talk about your financial plan

Your children need to know you will do whatever you can to keep the family safe and get your finances back on track. Talk about your family’s financial plan — cutting back on extra expenses, eating meals at home instead of dining out, taking on a part-time job on the weekends, etc. Let them know what you are doing to keep the family financially secure and how you are going to save for the future.

If you need assistance developing a financial plan, research on the Internet, check out financial books from the library and talk to a financial planner if necessary. Educate yourself about money management as much as you can to secure your long-term financial health.

Keep kids in the loop

After sharing information with your kids about your finances, do what you can to keep them in the loop about progress and any possible setbacks. The best way you can keep your children feeling secure is to keep the lines of communication open at all times. Have family meetings on a regular basis to keep your children informed about finances and everything else that may be affecting your family. Talk about the changes that need to be made (even temporarily) in your budget — including cutting back on buying brand-name merchandise, taking part in free and cost-effective activities and holding off on the little “extras.”

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Explore new activities

Just because your family is struggling financially doesn’t mean you can’t have fun together. Family bonds can be strengthened by exploring new, low-cost activities — from thrift store shopping to free concerts in the park and afternoon bike rides to free cultural events.

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More on kids and money

A course in household budgeting for your teen
Teaching your kids about money and debt
The best credit cards for teens