As our nation faces an economic and financial crisis unlike anything seen before, families find themselves in the midst of a constant barrage of media information coming at us from all angles, permeating all aspects of our lives. In the center of this are many parents concerned about how to navigate this topic on the home front, with their kids. As the hysteria, anxiety, and chaos around us continues on this topic, parents wonder what to do about the emerging questions from their children and they wonder how they can help their children best through these times.
Here are some ideas for championing as parents regarding this topic.
To help parents in the area of teaching kids about money, I have written a new e-book, which will be available in the next few days, called Raising Financially Responsible Children AKA Teaching Kids About Managing Money.
This article however, is about ideas for parenting during these turbulent financial times.
To begin with, children need to feel secure. Kids are watching their parents more closely than anyone else in their lives. So first and foremost, parents need to manage their own worries and fears. It is one thing to deal with realities with kids. However, it is important to keep a keen balance on giving kids valid information and providing a firm sense of security and well-being for their children.
What are ways for parents to do that?
Parents need to be aware that their kids of all ages are hearing a lot about everything, probably more than parents even realize. Therefore, anything parents can do to reduce worry and to reduce the constant focus on the “crisis” will increase peace and harmony in the home and that is a good thing for kids and parents alike. In general, it is a good idea to keep the television and other media off as much as possible at home. This is especially true for the news and talk shows. Parents can get their news when the kids are in bed or are not around.
What should parents do when their kids have questions?
A good rule of thumb here is “less is more.” When kids ask questions listen carefully, trying to determine what it is the kids mean, as opposed to just what they are saying. Author Willow Bay in her book Protecting Your Family in Dangerous Times tells a story about a little boy that came home and asked his Mom where he came from. His Mom launched into a full scale birds and the bee’s explanation. When she was finished the little boy said, “Oh, my friend said he came from Minnesota.”
Some ideas for finding out what it is kids are really needing to know is to answer their questions with your own questions first. Questions like, “What did you hear?” and “What do you know about that?” will help parents to determine what their kids are concerned about. As parents use their own keen knowledge of their individual children combined with efforts to see things from the perspectives of their children, parents will be able to sift out what their kids want to really know.
Another excellent tip for parenting in this area is to correct misinformation and to give age appropriate answers. Parents should keep serious financial information general and on a need to know basis for their kids of all ages. Children under the age of 10 process information more concretely. Therefore, parents should give them factual information and keep it simple. For older children, parents may kick it up a notch and share how they feel about investment status, or have a conversation about the Federal Reserve or fiscal policy for example.
Above all, parents need to convey a sense of security to their kids of all ages. Reassurance is the order of the day pertaining to this issue. Some other ways for parents to do this are for parents to share with kids that adults are working hard to solve the problems of our nation. Parents may add how they themselves are taking care of their families and that they are doing fine. (If they can genuinely say that they are). Parents may add that they have good jobs, a place to live, and food on the table. They could also add how fortunate their families are and that they will be fine. Parents should deal with the unemployment of a parent in a confident manner, refraining from burdening children with unnecessary information. If parental unemployment is a problem for the family it is helpful for parents to model efforts to find employment.
When it comes to the topic of tightening belts, it is a teachable moment to share with kids that in light of the times, household budgets may need to be tighter, which will explain to kids less expenditures on the part of the family. This holds true for dining out, gifts, entertainment and other areas of family life where spending needs to be reduced. It is OK to share with kids the basic concept. Doing so in a responsible tone, with a confident manner is a good thing. It shows them this is a good thing and it is the responsible thing to do. (Even though the harsh reality may actually be that you have no choice but to do so!).
When it comes to gift giving during tough times, a great idea for families cutting back is to decide to give of your time and service instead of monetary gifts. Challenge one another to come up with ways to do that. Perhaps your family could help serve holiday meals to the less fortunate. Even families that require help from social services in desperate times will benefit from giving in such ways. Giving has a funny way of giving back to us many gifts of the joy from serving, a sense of appreciation for what we do have, and many other benefits, including taking our minds off of ourselves. It feels good to do good things. When things are tough, finding good and affordable ways to feel good is also a good thing. That is OK. Go for it. Do it for yourselves. Do it for your kids.
One of the greatest gifts of all for parenting in this area is the gift of faith. In our case, as a Christian family, it is the greatest gift of all that we give to our children as we share God’s many promises with our kids. The entire family derives much peace and comfort from prayer and the solid rock that our family stands on with God in charge. We are able to constantly stand on the scriptures that tell us not to be afraid, not to worry, and that He will take care of us and hold us in His hands. We know our kids receive tremendous assurances from the blessings of the Word of God. One of the many favorites for our family is Joshua 1:9, “Be bold, be brave, do not be afraid, for the Lord thy God is with you wherever you go.” Wow. He is with us, He will care for us, He will be with us to the end of time. There are so many, many wonderful messages for us in the bible. From it we get strength, courage, wisdom, peace and so much more. And more importantly, so do our kids. If you do not have a faith life or wonder about this area of life, spend some time checking it out. You will be glad you did. It can help so much.
Lori Jo Kemper is a PCI Certified Parent Coach® and speaker.
Copyright©Lori Jo Kemper,2008, www.TheParentingPath®