I Asked A Psychologist To Help Me Answer My Son’s Money Question
- When my son asked if we were poor, I didn’t know what to say, so I asked an expert.
- She recommended being honest, but not to the point of making my son worry about the money.
- Children need to be aware that things cost money, but know that they are being taken care of.
“Are we poor? asked my son, apropos of nothing.
I am very intentional with my children in that I don’t talk to them about household money and especially household money issues. However, my children are anxious little creatures and sometimes they worry.
The week before the question, I saw my daughter’s eyes widen as I paid for our car’s new transmission, impressed by the multi-thousand dollar charge on my credit card. I wonder if they discussed it later, causing my son to ask me about our financial situation. Also, as children of divorce, they may have understood some of the consequences of the income disparity between their two homes. I make less money than their father.
I don’t think my children’s concerns are particularly well founded as we, even at home, are privileged to have what we need, but I am very careful that my children feel validated but safe in their homes. and let me take care of them, free them from their worries.
However, I did not know how to answer this question. I want to be honest with my children and give them agency when it comes to knowing that money is a consideration in our family’s decision making. But, also, I didn’t want to traumatize the little guy. So I asked Amy W. Stoeber, psychologist, trainer and consultant specializing in children and trauma, how to deal with it.
Why do children worry
Stoeber says kids don’t worry about money because they feel like they don’t have enough. They worry because “they’re tuned in to their parents’ distress or celebrations,” she says. They see parents arguing or worrying about expenses, cash flow, or the ability to pay for things. While being transparent about money and teaching responsibility with one’s own money is important, says Stoeber, “it should be done in the spirit of financial education versus responsibility.”
When we go shopping and my children ask for things, for example, instead of telling them that we can’t afford it, I often say: “We don’t need that” or “This doesn’t is not on the list. What’s wrong with worrying kids about money?
“Kids can easily get overwhelmed when it comes to finances, budgeting, saving, and spending,” says Stoeber. She says this can become a problem because, “although they may be emotionally sensitive to financial issues, they lack the ability to solve the money problem, which leads to overwhelm and powerlessness”. Children have so little control over their lives. It’s no wonder they argue over things that we know aren’t their problem.
Young children are unable to contribute to the household and older children may feel pressured. “At the extreme, it can lead to anxiety and take on the emotional burden of adults. Neither is healthy for children,” Stoeber says. We certainly don’t want our little children to feel the stress of being an adult until they are good and ready.
How to talk about money in a healthy way
“Discussions about money and finances for kids, conducted in a healthy way, are free of parental burden and emotions,” says Stoeber, who suggests kids start practicing saving their money. For my part, I was indeed stressed by the cost of the new transmission, but I kept it for myself and waited to complain to my friends that the children were not there. I did not tell them that due to the money spent on the car, I was making internal changes to the budget.
As they get older, Stoeber says it’s a good idea for kids “to learn about philanthropy, taxes, and responsible spending.” When I was a child, I babysat and received an allowance, but I never understood that one day I would have to account for taxes when I spent my hard-earned money. I’ve been involved in philanthropic activities, but haven’t made the connection between the monetary value of providing a service for the purpose of helping and not earning money from it. I plan to connect these dots for my kids as they get older and we continue our discussions about money.
What I said to my son
When asked by my son, I started out of curiosity. “Is that something you’re worried about?” I asked. He nodded his little head. “I want you to know that we have everything we need and we have enough money. I will take care of you and make sure you have what you need.” I don’t know if that was a perfect response, but it made him feel like I was listening and was on it.
Since then, he’s asked me many questions, ranging from “why don’t birds have noses” to “what’s at the end of the universe”, but he hasn’t expressed more concerns about money. I plan to continue to be honest and open in my conversations about money to allay my children’s fears and make them feel responsible for their own money, yes, but also free from the burden when it comes to finances. Household.