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Talking to Kids During Tough Economic Times

Kids are keenly in tune with family stressors, so if you lose your job or are facing financial hardships, it’s important to address their concerns. Ignoring the elephant in the room or staying silent about matters will only add to a child’s stress. Without forcing the issue, ask your children about their thoughts and ideas about what’s going on.

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Lisa Uebelacker, PhD, a psychologist at Butler Hospital, recommends listening carefully and trying to understand the situation from a child’s perspective. “If they seem to be anxious or worried about the situation, ask about what worries them the most; you may be surprised by the answer,” says Dr. Uebelacker, “Once you have a good understanding of their viewpoint, you may be able to ease their fears and clear up any misunderstandings.”

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Each child in your family may react differently to news about unemployment or budget-tightening, depending on age and maturity level. Make sure your conversation is age-appropriate, and do not provide details that a child cannot understand. Again, make sure to address their fears and concerns without assuming their fears are the same as yours.

Here are some additional tips from Dr. Uebelacker about how to approach financial matters with children:

  • Enjoy low-cost family activities, like watching a movie, playing a board game, or taking a hike. This may also be a good time to start a dialogue with your child. Time spent talking and listening to your child is the most valuable gift that you can give them.
  • Limit watching TV and the news—for yourself and your children. News reports are meant to be sensational; they are not designed to limit unnecessary worry or promote good mental health.
  • Accentuate the positive, including the strength that your family’s love and loyalty provide in the face of struggles.
  • Talk with other parents about how their families cope. You are not alone in these financially troubled times.
  • Use job loss to teach children about the wisdom of saving money for future uncertainties.
  • Ask your children regularly how they’re doing. Keep the lines of communication open.
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