Talking about money troubles with your child

Published on: 05/02/2007

Skyrocketing prices at the grocery store and high costs at the fuel pumps are forcing families cross the nation to rein in their spending habits. Adjustments can be challenging for all members of the family, including children. But take heart—it’s all a matter of reframing the situation and turning it into a positive experience for the entire family.

Family Fun on a Budget

“The way you handle the situation as a parent will greatly affect the way your children handle it,” says Allison T. Siebern, PhD, who received her doctoral training from Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital. “If you are visibly anxious, the kids will become worried as well. Just remember that it is important to discuss financial difficulties in a way that allows children to feel safe and secure.”

Older children are more observant than younger ones and may already realize money is tight. They often need money for sports or field trips, so explain that these activities cost money and encourage them to take personal responsibility by mowing lawns or walking dogs in your neighborhood to help pay for them.


“Children should be told that there are financial challenges, but it will all work out,” says Sara Rivero-Conil, PsyD, who also completed her doctoral training at Nicklaus Children's. “For younger children, you might consider buying a special toy at the end of the school year as opposed toas opposed to providing toys all the time as treats. In the meantime, you can reward them by playing their favorite game with them.”

Details or Summaries?

Determining how much information to tell children depends heavily on age. Younger children don’t need as many details because they cannot understand the situation as well as older children will. Adolescents need more explanation, and the best way to provide it is to be as upfront as possible. For a smooth adjustment, provide examples of how their lives and routines may change. Be open to any questions they have and suggest ways they can help.

Family values take center stage

Now is an ideal time to teach your kids what matters most in life—enjoying time together as a family. “Not all activities require spending lots of money,” Dr. Rivero-Conil says. “Think of an activity everyone can enjoy that doesn’t cost as much. This will help children redefine what fun is, in addition to instilling positive family values.”
Published by the Department of Psychiatry at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

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