Especially in these economically uncertain times, it’s common for families to be hit with a financial crisis every now and then. Maybe you were laid off, or your partner is sick, or your savings got taken up by an expense and now others are rolling in. Maybe it’s a bad few months, maybe it’s been a bad financial year.
No matter what, I’m sorry you’re going through it. Times of financial crisis can be among the most stressful for parents, especially with little ones to consider. A lot of us have forgotten to consider how these crises may be impacting the kids themselves, and how to turn it around into a time of training rather than trouble.
Parents try to shield their children as much as possible. This is a naturally protective instinct, but when it comes to stress kids can feel it. If you’re worrying about money, they may not know exactly what’s going on, but they’re probably worrying too. By opening the lines of communication about the issue, you’re going to turn this into a teachable moment for them that can help them for years to come.
So, what should you do to train children rather than trouble them?
Talk to them.
Don’t share the dollars and cents of the current situation, but acknowledge that things aren’t going as well as they normally would be right now, and let them voice their concerns.
Even in talking about the financial stresses that may be worrying you, it’s important to keep the tone of the conversation positive. You may not know exactly how you’re going to recover from this, but your kids need to know that you will.
Use this time to teach kids how to budget
Let kids know that you’re working on a budget that will help the family recover, and encourage them to practice doing the same thing with their pennies. Walk them through how to plan for expenses, spending, and saving so that even in this time of worry they will be learning.
If they develop their own budget, take it seriously. Help them to plan their savings goals and what they’ll need to do to get there, and then reward progress as much as possible. This can be a way to keep the focus on the recovery, rather than on the problem.
Let them see some of what you’re doing to fix the situation
Maybe you don’t want them to see everything, but walk them through the process. “Okay guys, today is bill paying day. Who remembers who we have to pay?” They don’t need the specific amounts to be learning the structure of how you’re fixing your financial future.
Hunt for deals as a family
Deal hunting is an activity that can be shared, get the kids involved in going through grocery flyers or finding cheaper ways to keep the family entertained. Make it a game to save money, and kids will want to play – and win!
Stay as normal as possible
In all things, even though it’s okay to say it’s a hard time, keep things as normal and as positive as possible. Family fun night shouldn’t disappear because the budget has changed, but maybe it should be a board games night instead of going to the movies together. Get the kids involved in planning fun activities so that they will see life can be normal, even now.