Guiding Your Kids Through An Economic Crisis
Their "State of Recovery" Rests on You.
This economc crisis has been hard enough on all of us, but it doesn't have to be on our kids. The downturn can be an uplifting experience for them, if we as parents play our cards right. In recent years, our youngest economic victims have been inundated with the idea that they need "things" to be fullfilled. This media-fueled illusion is both a burden and a disservice to them on many levels. Just as we have come from the "now" generation, our kids have started picking up some bad habits. Many of us have to admit that we've been a bit spoiled with excess in comparison to generations past. Maybe we're fortunate to have received an unexpected wake up call in order to get back some of what we've lost...the ability to pause, reflect and appreciate things a little more.
While we do need to explain the economic situation to our children and what impact it may be having on the family's finances, we don't need to express grave pessimism about having less money. We should also refrain from letting them see our fear and uncertainty of the future. What we should explain, is how this is a real opportunity for us to reexamine our spending habits and to work together as a family to come up with effective alternatives.. Remind them that keeping tabs on your spending and saving habits prepare you for a more fiscally secure future. If you involve them in the solution, they will feel empowered and will be more likely to buy into the new plan. I've outlined some things below that we as parents can do to raise our children's awareness, and to show them how this time can positively affect them, and the family as a whole.
First, we have to observe the way we communicate our views on the current situation and the changes taking place. For example, instead of saying "We can't afford to go out to dinner", try "We're going to stay in and eat at our own table tonight, and save the money we would spend for dinner at a restaurant". Follow it up with a discussion of all the things you could do with the money you saved. Let them use their imagination to spend the money any way they want. This will allow them the pleasure of "spending" it without the actual debit to your bank account. Visualizing these things will uplift thier feelings about money, and take them out of the feeling of "lack". Focusing on the things you do have makes what's missing less obvious.
Revisit "family time". Instead of going to the movies, remind them that when you rent the DVD, or record it later on a DVR, you can have a "family night" with popcorn and candy, all in the comfort of your own living room. Many parents have started weekly "movie" theme nights, where the kids make decorations related to the movie. With a short trip to the local dollar store, you can also find inexpensive theme items and snacks for the evening. Share with them the cost of the movie tickets, refreshments etc... and how much you're saving by having a home movie night instead. Tell them that you value the quality time you'll spend together. Take advantage of it, since it tends to happen less when we have more money, yet it means more to our kids than we sometimes realize.
Challenge them to come up with inexpensive ways to have fun. Pull out the old art supplies and Play Dough Fun Factory, and encourage them to create during this time of transition. It will give them a way to express themselves while decorating the refrigerator for mom. It's okay to give up organized sports or dance lessons for a while, and go back to the old signature favorites like riding your bike, playing hide and seek, climbing a tree, and playing "Jax" or "Slinky". It was fine for us, before the video games, iPods, car pools and text messaging came along. Getting back to basics can be very liberating for our kids. It wouldn't hurt us either.
Inspire them to help others less fortunate than themselves. Even if it's just going through their old toys and books, and donating them to the local shelter or library. There are many schools also in need of these things for younger students. Encourage them to help the elderly in your neighborhood who cannot afford lawn care anymore. Your child will be less focused on what he or she doesn't have, if they experience first hand people in greater need. The unselfish act of giving itself, is a very powerful and uplifting experience. When they feel better about themselves, they can more positively affect those around them.
We set the tone and the belief system about money and it's importance in our life, and our children observe more keenly than we think. Developing good habits during this time will set a reliable example for them, so when they are faced with similar conditions in their future, they'll be better equipped to handle it. It's a new day in all of our lives. No one has been immune to the changes taking place in our financial environment. They say "Some things can't be learned, they have to be remembered." So let's teach our kids now what they will long remember about the important values in life.
In good times and bad.