How to talk to children about money during the cost-of-living crisis to support your kids’ wellbeing through these challenging, uncertain, and worrying times.
Families across the country are feeling the pinch amid the cost-of-living crisis – and it’s affecting children’s wellbeing and mental health.
A recent survey by YoungMinds revealed the cost of living is the leading cause of anxiety in children and young people. Just over half of 11- to 25-year-olds said they had felt angry, unhappy, stressed, or anxious over money in the last three months.
Children are watching, listening, observing, and picking up on your vibes around how you talk about money and have probably started to notice that you are cutting back on treats and outings.
You are probably more tense, more short tempered, less patient and more anxious than usual.
The good news is, according to the government’s ‘Money Helper’ site, children whose parents talk to them about money and give them responsibility for spending and saving are better at dealing with financial uncertainty – both now and as adults.
So how do you support your children’s wellbeing through the cost-of-living crisis?
It’s important to be truthful with your children about difficult topics like the cost-of-living crisis, especially if they start asking questions.
Keep the information you share with them age and maturity appropriate.
There’s no need to frighten your 5-year-old but it’s important to talk more openly with your 15-year-old about what’s happening.
Teens will be picking up information from social media, their friends, online & TikTok and may pick up false information, or get hold of the wrong end of the stick, that may lead them into becoming unduly worried.
Find a good time, when you are not busy stressed or upset to sit down and have a chat with them. Turn off your mobile and the TV.
Many parents don’t want to say the wrong thing or make things worse, but actually having the conversation is so much better than avoiding it.
Plan What You Want to Say
Get a piece of paper and a pen and jot down some bullet points of the key messages you want to get across.
Keep It Simple: think (KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid)
Give them the facts and create the space and time to respond to their questions and help them understand.
Don’t be embarrassed about saying ‘no’ to outings, extras, family trips out or holidays.
There is no shame or guilt attached to your circumstances.
Learning about money and life is an important life lesson for your children – it will bond you together and they will remember the important messages and values you pass on to them.
Encourage everyone to develop what I call the ‘We Family Team.’ Talk and teach your kids to develop an attitude of pulling together, supporting each other and looking after each other.
Children will learn about the language of money and also talking about pocket money is another very useful starting point for teaching them about it. Children learn their attitudes and values towards money from you, as you are their first role model!
Your child learns a lot by just watching you and how you deal with money. Spending, saving, withdrawing, or donating money: they’re all chances to teach your child more of the basics around it.
They also learn about money from the way you speak about it too, so just start to notice how you talk about money in general in front of your kids and decide if that’s really the message you want to pass on to them, regardless of how old they are.
Change your attitude from embarrassment into seeing it as an opportunity to ‘Talk and Teach’ them about money.
Teaching, guiding and showing children how to handle money is a really worthwhile exercise as it’s also a practical way to develop their sense of independence, confidence and self-esteem and you are also teaching them a very important long term life skill too!
Make Sure Your Kids Feel Safe and Secure
The important part of talking to your children is to explain calmly what’s happening and to help them relax and feel safe and secure. You don’t want them feeling responsible for your happiness or mood.
Be positive, upbeat, and truthful.
Here are some #TipsandScripts to help.
‘Look, it’s going to be a difficult time for us all for a while. Lots of families are finding it a bit tough at the moment.
We’re going to have to make some choices around what we spend our money on.
There’s a difference between what we need and what we want.
We’re going to have to think about spending wisely.
So, we need your help!
There’s no need to worry.
Everything’s under control.
It just might just feel a bit different. ‘
Make It into A Game
Think about empowering, not rescuing or frightening your kids by showing them how they can be part of the money-saving process. With young children, turn household cost-cutting into a game.
Ask them to remember to switch off lights around the house as lighting makes up 11% of the average UK household electricity consumption, get them thinking about how to waste less food and to remember to turn off taps when they are brushing their teeth. At the supermarket, have fun seeing who can find the lowest prices on different foods – it will teach them about looking out for value and not always buying a brand name.
Use shopping as a great opportunity to talk about the difference between wants and needs.
We need the potatoes and tomatoes and the chicken, but we don’t need – the chocolate ice cream today’
#Tipsandscripts for older children.
‘We need to be mindful of wasting energy as that could really help us save money on our electricity bills. So, we need your help. Your devices, like consoles, chargers, phones, tablets, and computers drain power and cost us quite a lot on our electricity bills. So, please remember to turn them off, unplug them and switch them off when you’re not using them.’
(A recent study by British Gas estimates switching off vampire devices around the house could save an average of £110 per household a year!)
Cutting Back on Streaming Subscriptions and Take Aways.
Get everyone onboard with the changes you may need to make.
If you’re cutting back on streaming subscriptions, have a family vote on which one to cancel – that way your kids feel part of the decision and won’t be so resentful.
If you are limiting takeaways (the average UK spend per person on takeaways is £641 a year), let everyone know that you’re going to try to be a Just Eat-free-zone for a while.
How about getting your kids involved in Cookin- Nights together – where they choose the menu and help you cook it?
If you need help explaining the cost-of-living crisis or anything tricky in the news, resources like Newsround can be fantastic for kids to keep them updated on what’s going on in the world without overwhelming them.
Watch Being Overheard
You may think your kids can’t hear you, but they very often can and do. So, keep those adult worried conversations to when they are in bed asleep.
Watch what you say on the phone.
Try to keep the conflict to a minimum.
Try and be a parenting team – high on harmony and low on hostility. It’s not always easy, but it’s important.
Small Changes Can Make A BIG Difference.
Making small changes to your day-to-day life can benefit your budget and save you money.
Hanging out the washing in the good weather rather than automatically using the tumble drier, turning the heating down by one degree, putting the hot water on timer for an hour instead of all day, switching off lights, or turning down radiators in rooms that you don’t use.
Look After Your Own Wellbeing
Most parents put too much pressure on themselves to be perfect but it’s very important to look after your own mental health first. It’s not selfish – it’s selfcare so you are able to then take care of your family from a better, more balanced place.
It’s going to be a long-term problem, so it’s important that you don’t sacrifice your own wellbeing during this time.
Remember the oxygen mask metaphor to help – where you put your oxygen mask on first so you can then help your family.
These are challenging times but working together, focusing on what you can do and getting the support you need financially and emotionally are some of the simple steps you can take to get through this.
Check out the ‘Cost of Living Crisis Survival Guide. 90+ Ways to Save’ from Martin Lewis and the Money Saving Expert website https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/family/cost-of-living-survival-kit/
Get involved with the conversation on social media and share all your tips and advice for families using the #TimetoTalk hashtag.
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