Talking to Children About Money
August 14, 2017—During a conversation among parents about their children—now adolescents and young adults the issue of children and money came up. There were the usual rants about children not appreciating the value of money, anxieties about paying for college expenses, the astronomical increase in auto insurance when adding a teenager to the policy, etc. Most parents shared frustrations, and worry, about their teenage and young adult children not being able to handle their finances.
I asked the group of parents if they talked about money, finances, and stewardship with their children when they were young. All said that no, they hadn’t. That being the case, I wondered at their surprise that their grown children were unprepared to handle money as adults.
Money and the economy are topics of high anxiety today. It seems it makes for a lot of daily conversation among adults, conversations that children overhear. I like to remind parents, and others who work with children, that one of the most important functions we provide for young children is to be interpreters of the world for them. And, like any parental or teaching function, we need to be intentional about it.
Below are eleven points about “How to Talk With Kids About Today’s Economy,” by my colleague Dr. Daniel G. Bagby, Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Care at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, VA. As always, he has good advice:
- Children absorb anxiety from family members and the family environment. How parents and adults react and respond has a lot to do with how children and adolescents respond
- Answer children’s questions specifically and openly. Perception of secrecy, changing the subject, or “cutting off” responses add to fear and suspicion
- Encourage children and youth to understand more about family finances and adult jobs. Explain what you do—and how your family spends and saves money.
- Ask your children what they are hearing from their friends and from TV—invite them to ask you questions—and show an open and calm disposition to talk about money and jobs
- Choose when you talk about work, money, and family security, so that you avoid discussing issues when you are tired, anxious, or frustrated yourself—they will remember your disposition more than your words
- If you are worried about your own job security, discuss it with your spouse or a trusted professional before you share it with your children—so that you can “monitor” the amount of anxiety you express
- Watch for signs of anxiety and distress in children, who tend to express their stress physiologically and emotionally—more than verbally: eating habit changes, sleeping habit changes, irritability, uncharacteristic behavior, mood swings, change in school performance, prolonged sadness, excessive withdrawal, etc
- Express affection and love as adults one to another, and to the children—and create an atmosphere of emotional “safety”
- Listen to children’s thoughts and feelings—to reverse irrational and “magical thinking” (myths).
- Plan a weekly family fun & laughter event—it reduces stress. So does a healthy sport or exercise.
- Keep on practicing your faith. Such families are less anxious.
Resources: Tamar E. Chansky. Freeing Your Child From Anxiety: Practical Solutions to Overcome Fears, Worries, and Phobias (Broadway,2004); James J. Crist, What To Do When You’re Scared & Worried: A Guide For Kids (Free Spirit Pub, 2004); Lori Lite & Kimberly Fox, The Goodnight Caterpillar: A Children’s Relaxation Story (Indigo Dreams, 2007); Rapee, Wignall, Spence & Cobham, Helping Your Anxious Child: A Step by Step Guide For Parents (New Harbinger, 2008); Eimer, Moshe, & Torem, Coping With Uncertainty (Harbinger, 2002).
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.
His books on Christian education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists.