How to Balance Kids And Money Problems

The holiday season is in full swing, and many parents are trying to stretch shrinking budgets to cover their children's expectations.

No one likes to disappoint their children, especially not at Christmas. (See Holiday Stress.)

But spending money we don’t have is extremely stressful at the best of times. And if Mom or Dad has been recently laid off from their job, well, this year simply can’t be like prior years.

But how do you tell the kids?

The following excerpts from an article written by Brenda Gutierrez of the Idaho Statesman (11/1/08) speak to this very real dilemma:

No matter what age the children may be, honesty is still the best policy when talking about a difficult subject.

"If you're laid off, and the lifestyle you've been enjoying is being modified, I don't think there's anything wrong with saying to your kids, 'Daddy just got laid off from his job, and until he finds another one, we're going to be cutting back a bit,' " said Paula Sharp, a licensed clinical social worker with A Better Day Counseling in Boise. "Label what the problem is, offer reassurance for the future, and what you're going to be doing in the meantime.”

"Keep in mind that it's important to tailor what you say to your children according to how old they are and how mature they are," Sharp said. "The younger the children, the more concerned they are going to be with what's going on and if they're the one who has caused the problem. It's important for them to know that this is nothing that they have done. They haven't caused the problem, and they aren't being punished. Their place in the family is secure. And the family will get through this together. That's what very young children need to hear."

Parents should make it a point to discuss their serious financial concerns when very young children cannot overhear them. Children will often pick up on their parents’ stresses and anxieties without understanding why, and then may act out behaviorally. They may begin wetting the bed at night or have difficulties at school, for example. And then the parents worry about their child and stress increases even more. A pretty vicious circle! Much better to discuss the serious stuff alone and in private, so you can present a unified front with the children.


Older teens, though, can be included in some of the more difficult discussions. Being a part of problem-solving or cost-cutting talks is a valuable learning opportunity for teenagers. And seeing some of the challenges in black and white can be helpful when asking our teens to modify their lives, too.

For example, your teenager may need to pitch in more at home or watch the younger kids more often while parents are working. Or even get a job, too, to help out.

Changes and challenges are never easy, but it helps to remember that what is really important in life are our relationships.

The rest is really just the icing on the cake.


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A Better Day Counseling Services & Paula Sharp, LCSW

Serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian and Treasure Valley, Idaho

Located at: 1414 W. Franklin St., Boise, ID 83702

(208) 344-4343

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