It has been a stressful year and some of us feel like we have been through the wringer. We adults have the advantage (or maybe not) in regard to this past year. We know why we can’t go to the grocery store without a mask. We understand why we can’t visit the grandparents’ home anymore. We know why we have to prioritize bills, gas, and food over toys and video games. But kids may not. They can sense when things are off kilter even though they may not have language to convey what they’re feeling. Without explanations, they may feel even feel more stress than normal. It is absolutely normal to want to shield kids from life’s difficulties, but life has a way of intruding anyway. I remember Fred Rogers’ gentle demeanor and honesty as he used his program to talk about tough issues, but still had away of making kids feel like things will be alright. HIs voice is one I truly wish we still had today, but he taught my generation how to use our own voices to help others.
Money is a hard topic to broach at any time but our present circumstances make it necessary to listen to children’s concerns and give them honest answers that hopefully allay their fears instead of adding to them. We don’t have to be graphic to be honest but remember the L.U.V. acronym when having a conversation with kids.
L—Listen without interruption, hold eye contact and give your full attention
U—Understand that their fears are real to them and may seem large and scary
V—Validate their concerns by speaking back to them what you heard, to make sure you got it right. Then, together with them, come up with solutions that will help them. Let them know they were truly heard.
Here are some simple examples to address some concerns kids may have. These are not comprehensive, by any means, but can give you an idea of what to say as you are talking to your kids about money.
Why are we in this long line to get food? Can’t we go to the grocery store?
You know how when we would shop at the store and I would give the cashier money at the end? Well, my job has changed (or gone away) and I have to give my money to other people. They let us have electricity and water. Things will change and we’ll be able to go to back to the grocery store (someday, soon, in not too long).
Why don’t we go to the mall anymore?
Have you noticed that I’m home a lot more? Well, that’s because I’m looking for a new place to work. (You can add at your discretion; The place I used to work had a tough time and none of us can work there anymore.) So, you know how when we go to the store and I pay for the things we buy with either cash or my card? I used to get my cash to pay for things from that place I used to work. When I get another job, maybe we can do some of the things we used to do.
Will Santa bring me a Baby Ninja Shark Zombie (or will you buy me a Baby Ninja Shark Zombie) for Christmas?
Depending on their level of awareness/understanding, perhaps this is the time to share the truth about Santa. If not, then maybe; “The virus that is making everyone stay home for a little while has hurt some people more than others. Santa asked that we help each other right now and be patient while he catches up at the workshop. (If you need to add little detail for those kids who are savvier)— “Some of the elves got colds and had to stay in bed for a few days and they’ll try to catch up as soon as they can. Santa really appreciates us all being patient, and I appreciate it, too.”
It might be helpful to let kids in on some of the successes you may have during the pandemic. If things have been tight, but you managed to save some money using coupons or find items on sale, share it with them. Give them an opportunity to celebrate with you and show them that even though tough times come to all, there are ways to overcome, even if they’re small ways. This can also give positive reinforcement that budgeting and/or saving money isn’t a hard or a negative concept. Kids will pick up cues about money from observing you and they will tend to emulate what you model for them.
We’re in for a holiday season like one we’ve never had before but as you spend time talking with your kids about money, I believe your kids will gain a sense of safety and comfort knowing that they are on the same team as their parents and that their contribution is important and they’re a valuable part of the family.
I hope you have a safe holiday and a bright New Year.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. empowers people to overcome their financial challenges and lead financially-healthy lives.
CESI is NOT A LOAN COMPANY