Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Talking to Your Kids about the Recession

With layoffs rampant in Las Vegas, there's no question that kids will notice the anxiety in the air. I read an article on Yahoo recently and thought I’d share some items that really hit home with me. Talking to kids about what's happening in both the economy and the family budget is crucial. Here are some thoughts on how to broach this loaded topic.

First, be conscious of the way you talk about money, and cut out the "poor talk."

“I need that” can become “I want that.”
“I am underpaid” can become “I spend more than I make.”
“We can't afford it,” can become, truthfully, “We choose to spend our money on other things.”

Usually, we could afford it -- the snowmobile, the CD player, the Disney World vacation -- if we made it our top priority; now we just have other priorities on which we choose to spend our limited incomes. The choice is ours.

We also make choices that affect the family budget. We could have a bigger home, but then Mom and Dad would have to get different jobs, leave early in the morning, and work late into the evening. That would mean not driving them to school or having a snack with them when they arrive home, and having dinner together as a family very often. Unless they’re teenagers, most kids agree that more time with family makes it worth having the smaller home. This philosophy is ideal for tough economic times. Rather than scare kids, we can tell them that the economic environment has changed, and that we need to make different choices about our family budget for a while.

Enlist your kids' help: Ask them to be creative and think of half a dozen low-cost ways to have fun as a family, or ways to earn more, whether it's selling stuff on eBay, raking lawns, or babysitting. Asking kids to pitch in empowers them, because you're acknowledging that they're capable of making a difference.

Perhaps the most important factor is to be optimistic for kids, and focus on the good amid the tribulations. Optimists view setbacks in their lives as temporary rather than permanent, which teaches kids that while we can't control everything that happens to us, we can control our attitude about what happens to us.

When kids see their parents struggle honestly with challenges, overcome them or learn to accept them and live with them rather than go into denial or flee from them, they will be better prepared to cope with their own inevitable challenges. Life pitches us plenty of curveballs. Kids who see their family come together and keep swinging even when they strike out will grow up more willing to take risks, make mistakes, learn, and grow.

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