Should Parents Be Honest with Kids About Financial Woes?

In the last three years, many of us have struggled financially as the economy took a nosedive that left huge numbers in the U.S. unemployed. This struggle tore a lot of families apart, as parents fought tooth and nail, often against each other, to make sure their kids were provided for. In the end, this hardship either brought families closer together, showing them they were powerful enough to endure anything as a unit, or it pulled them apart at the seams.

As we hung suspended in the balance of financial hardship, many parents began asking the question: “How honest should we be with our kids about our financial difficulties?”

From a personal perspective, this last year has probably been one of the most difficult years I faced with my child. Going through a divorce, moving into a new home, living for months without a car of my own… I often found myself saying, “No,” more than ever before. In turn, this prompted my daughter to ask, “But why?”

And I floundered with my answers, not wanting to alarm or frighten her about the cold, hard truth that money was tight.

Experts say that instead of using threatening absolutes that could cause insecurity in our kids, we need to approach our answers to their questions with tact, as well as honesty. After all, as parents it is our number one job to ensure our children feel secure in our care, even when we worry we might not be able to provide for them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises us to approach these discussions from an age and emotional-level appropriate standpoint. Older children may be more equipped to handle the facts, while younger children still won’t understand why the money that was there before is suddenly gone. In-depth explanations will only serve to confuse and possibly even frighten younger kids, and kids with emotional problems.

For example, instead of blasting them with hardcore statements like, “I just lost my job, and we are going to lose everything we have,” approach them with facts like. “I have to find a new job, and things might be tight for awhile. We have enough money for food and our house, but we might not be able to buy new toys or eat out right now.”

One thing a lot of us don’t consider is how our approach to stressful situations shapes the way our kids handle them as they become adults. Staying strong is essential to empowering our kids to stay strong when life throws them curve balls, so remember that the next time you feel like falling apart in front of your kids. You gotta stay strong, even when it feels impossible to do so.