By July 7, 2012 Read More →

How Much Do You Tell Your Kids?

As a parent, we want to make sure or kids want for nothing. But are we doing a disservice by not letting them know exactly why financial decisions are made? How much is too much to tell them and at what age?

As single parents, life is challenging. There is no disputing that. As the owner of  Single Parent Travel, I hear a lot of stories about the trials and tribulations we all face. Job loss, home loss, wicked ex-spouse, health issues, medical issues, job stress…..  The list goes on.

Certainly children will see and pick up on much of this, but how much do you tell them? Is it based on age? Maturity?

I have a single parent friend who literally lives paycheck to paycheck. Since she is self employed, those paychecks are nowhere close to consistent. If she is not producing, she is not earning. And many times, the lack of income is not her fault. Her client is behind and does not pay on time. A family emergency took her away from her office. An unexpected medical (or in my case car) expense.

I know there have been times where I have just scraped by making the mortgage payment and went without a dinner out or a Sunday afternoon bowling with the kids.  I have pretty much insulated my kids and I wonder if that is the right move. My shopping has changed. I look for sale items in the grocery. I use coupons (not as good as I should). I put off buying new clothing and “things” for myself in order to buy “things” for them. Is this the right thing to do–just being a parent? Or am I short changing them on a valuable life lesson? Right now, they know they are disappointed when we don’t get or do something, but I am not sure they get the “why” part of the equation.

In very general terms they understand the economy is bad and that “things” are more plentiful in some years than in others. But they don’t understand that there are times when we, as parents,  need to make the horrible choice to forego something fun to take care of a necessity.  My kids don’t understand that making a utility payment on a credit card is not a good idea. I do, but sometimes, it is unavoidable.

Times are challenging right now. Do your children understand just how challenging it is? Or are they just mad that they did not get a “thing” they wanted?

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4 Comments on "How Much Do You Tell Your Kids?"

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  1. Ann says:

    Not for general post. Just a response to your essay about how much to divulge of our struggles to the kids.

    Two of my three sons felt completely deprived as they grew up. (My oldest son is handicapped and the easiest of the three) 🙂 He never complains about anything.

    The two boys felt that everyone else had a nicer house, more gizmos, etc, etc. I’m from a stoic family where finances were never discussed and we all just accepted that we didn’t have much money, but we never lacked for love. I didn’t explain how difficult things were for me financially, but instead said things like, “We’re rich in love,” in response to the question, “Are we poor?”

    Compared to my siblings, we didn’t live quite as well, but compared to the people I worked with in the poor neighorhoods of New York, we were wealthy indeed.

    The boys grumbled, but I knew that when they left home, they’d appreciate all that was done for them. (At least I hoped so). I received a letter last week from my boy in Afghanistan, thanking me for everything–all the sacrifices that he didn’t appreciate at the time, but is now aware of. He appreciates the fact that I didn’t complain about our plight as they were growing up and that I continued to smile through it all.

    That letter made my life. Now I can die in peace.

    I think as parents we should spare our children all the complaints and hardships of our situation. They will understand and appreciate our struggles and sacrifices as they get older. Of all my nieces and nephews, only my two sons support themselves. And they are very generous with me. (They are 19 and 20 years old). How many adults can say that they are actually proud of their teens?

    I can 🙂 And I believe that it is precisely because they were not handed everything.

    Ann

  2. Durante says:

    With my children, I figure honesty is the best policy, especially with the older ones. I say things like “Sure, I’d love to buy you a bike, does that mean we don’t need to save up for a new computer now?”

    I’m not sure if it’s a guild trip, suggesting that I could give them everything their hearts desire, I’d just have to work longer and be home less. I do believe they need to understand how the world works with money though… and even better, they need to understand what’s most important.

  3. Tracey says:

    I talk with my 8 year old about our budget but try to make it about making good choices and not so much about not being able to afford something. She knows about sales and coupons and she’s even found that her own money goes much farther when she purchases something that’s on sale. There are times though when I try to let her enjoy an experience or vacation trip without the constant mention of money. Fortunately, at 8 the items on her wish list aren’t that expensive. I’m sure that will change as she gets older.

  4. Name (required) says:

    I’m an open book so my child can learn by example. Sometimes I get questioned by her incredible honesty on why this and not that… it gives me the opportunity to explain my reasoning for my decision along with possible other choices and their outcomes it also allows her to formulate her own opinion with out being her friend.