When money becomes an issue in a household, you need to make touch choices including telling your kids about the situation. While you may want to protect them, you will need the kids to understand with the lifestyle changes that come as a consequence of financial difficulties. Here are some tips on how you can help your child cope and comprehend what’s going on: 1. Be honest. Explain what’s happening but don’t tell them more than they need to know. There’s no need to scare the kids or worry them too much. Simply tell them what the situation is and how that’s going to affect the family budget.
“You sit them down, and you say, listen, we've had some financial difficulties…We love you. We're going to get through this. The most important thing is our family,” Michelle Singletary, a personal finance guru and writer for the "Color of Money" column of the Washington Post, told NPR. “You want to assure them that you're going to do the best that you can to take care of them,” she adds.
Put on a brave face and avoid saying things along the lines of “I don’t know what we’re going to do” especially to young kids. It’s not their problem. But if you feel like breaking down, wait for the conversation to be over and find a room for yourself.
2. Make rules and discuss the changes. If you haven’t discussed the differences between needs and wants with your child, take this opportunity to do so. Be frank in telling them that buying toys, gadgets and other unessential items will be put on hold until things get better, or they’ll will be reserved for special occasions like birthdays or Christmas.
If you’re already in a store and your child is insisting or throwing a tantrum, a good way to handle the situation is to focus on the positives, says Singletary. Avoid responding with, “We can’t afford it.” Instead, explain that the item is not on the budget and that there are other expenses like school needs. 3. Manage your stress levels. Do your best to keep it together for the kids. They will be able to sense if you’re under too much stress and it’s best not to stress them out too. Talk to a friend, join a support group or you can even try relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation. SmartParenting.com.ph's quick guide on stress can give more suggestions on how you can effectively handle stress.
4. Find low-cost, but fun, new family activities. Teach the kids that you can have fun without spending too much. It doesn’t cost at all to play pretend with you at home, for example, or to have a dance party in the living room. Parks are great places for picnics on nice days. Just this July, the National Museum of the Philippines announced that admission tickets are free of charge, too, so that’s another place to visit. On weekends, you can also have movie nights at home where the whole family re-watches favorite films.
5. Get the kids involved. Because toys are out of the budget now, talk to the kids on how they can save up their allowances to buy the toys themselves. They can also find simple ways that they can earn money like putting up a sago’t gulaman stand or organizing a garage sale (find more ideas like this here). At the end of the school year, most schools also accept textbooks for selling or donation. Earning their own money can help kids feel empowered--that they’re their part to help the family.