Talk to Your Kids about Money Worries. More Importantly: Listen, So They’ll Talk to You

Your kids are worried. About the recession? Maybe. About the economy? Maybe. About the state of the world? Maybe.

But one thing’s for sure: they’re worried about your worrying. And, of course, being kids, they are worried about themselves, and how what you’re worried about affects them. And since you want to shield them (when you aren’t thinking what you really want is not to deal and it should all please, go away), you probably aren’t talking about it. And since they want to shield you (it’s just about the only thing they can really do much about, short of volunteering to drop out of school and go to work. Or give up their allowance), they aren’t asking.

Radio silence. Which doesn’t mean the anxiety isn’t there. It just means it’s gone underground. They need you to talk to them. talkingmouthThey really need you to hear them, whether or not they’re speaking.ear

Ok. So you decide to trust me and consider “the talk,” if not ongoing talk. Still hedging your bets that you can hold your breath and just get it over with in one monologue, after breakfast but before soccer practice. But how do you know how much to say? When to say it? How to say it? And how to brace yourself for the questions you are hoping your kid won’t ask?

Know thy kid.
And know thyself.

Tailor your approach to your child’s age, maturity, personality, attention span. Consider the little hints he’s dropping about what’s on his mind: the “what if” questions, the “my friend” stories, the “why can’t we?” queries. Remind yourself that he really wants to know you’re honest (enough), in control (enough), and willing to tell him what he can do to help (enough).

Do it your way, but do it. While you’re driving in the car, facing forward with the music on, both semi-pretending not to be having the talk. While you’re watching tv together, looking for an opening to discuss what’s unrealistic, or wasteful, or a fantasy, or a good idea.

Your job really isn’t to offer the definitive guide to Recession 2009, or to make financial reality go away. It’s to make him feel safe. Let him know he can ask whatever he needs to ask, and you can handle it without being angry or falling apart.

And then remember the good news/bad news. Even if you blow it the first time around, you’ll get another shot at it. Anything you do to open the conversation is better than not talking – or listening! – at all.

And the really good news: no matter what his emotional reaction, he wants to believe in you, more than you can imagine. You both need to count on that.thumbsupCopyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

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2 responses to “Talk to Your Kids about Money Worries. More Importantly: Listen, So They’ll Talk to You

  1. More? Check out Sue Shellenbarger’s Work and Family column in March 24th Wall Street Journal: Break It to ‘Em Gently: Telling Kids About Financial Woes http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123794190752432769.html#mod%3DWSJ_TimesEMEA%26articleTabs%3Darticle

  2. You are giving such great advice! Thank you for sharing this stuff. I just found your blog and I’m enjoying it. We are suffering financially. I’ve told my kids just enough about it. We’re gently preparing them that we may lose our home. I may be needed a lot of your stress relief and conscious dreaming tips! I’m writing about it all too, it’s another great form of therapy!

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