Talking to Kids about Financial Hardship
According to a recent Federal Reserve survey, about 40 percent of adults in the United States could not cover a $400 emergency expense. While the number of Americans who report they are “doing okay” financially is up, so is consumer debt. More people than ever struggle to set aside savings.
As the federal government shutdown has shown, financial hardship – and the dire need for savings – can strike suddenly and unexpectedly. California families are among the hardest hit. With more than 140,000 federal employees, California has had more people working in federal agencies without funding than any other state.
The stress of living without a paycheck impacts everyone in the family. How can we talk to kids about sudden, unexpected financial hardships?
- Offer Age-Appropriate Information – Let your child know the facts that they are old enough to understand. For example, say, “I am not going to work right now, so we will have less money. Because of this, some changes will have to be made.” Glossing over or not addressing changes in your family’s life or lifestyle is confusing. Instead, share what you can and reassure your child that you are doing everything in your power to make sure they are okay.
- Share, Don’t Overshare – Sharing with your child some of your feelings about your situation can be constructive in helping them understand it. Asking how they feel about it is also useful. But sharing anger, grief or other intense emotions with your child – or even in front of your child – creates anxiety for them. Maintaining a calm, optimistic attitude will help your child feel safe.
- Be Predictable – In times of stress and change, predictable activities and routines go a long way to help both children and adults feel safe. Regular meals, bedtimes and rituals help reassure children that life goes on even in hard times.
- Enlist Help in Budgeting – Talk to your children about some ways your family might save money. Help them feel included in decision-making and invite them to offer suggestions on saving money. Emphasize the positive. For example, emphasizing ways to help the Earth by reducing, reusing and recycling, rather than focusing on deprivation and doing without, can make a difference.
- Decrease Stress – Consciously combat tension with low-cost stress relievers at home.Create a special at-home “movie night,” do yoga, have a dance-off, listen to music or read a book aloud after dinner. Develop a project that you can work on together, such as creating something from recycled objects or making a family tree.
- Offer Reassurance and Hope – While you can’t predict the future, you can offer assurance to your children about what you do know. Let them know that your family is together and will be there for each other. Tell them that you are working hard to improve the situation and will help everyone get through this together. Show them how much you care for them. Remember – hugs are FREE!
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