Now is not the time to start showing your children the Grapes of Wrath. The economic outlook might look bleak, but parents should use the financial crisis as a teaching moment rather than a scare tactic.
Parents should avoid having stressful financial discussions in front of the children, especially young ones, because they don’t have the context for understanding what is going on, advised University of Missouri personal finance professor Deanna L. Sharpe.
"They’ll be picking up not so much on the fact that the DOW is dropping, but they’ll be picking up on the fact that mom and dad might not be going out to eat as much," she said. "Or that if they ask for something instead of a happy yes, they’re getting not just a no, but a no filled with stress or a no we can’t afford that or a no filled with anger that’s not really directed at them but at the frustrations and uncertainties with the current economy."
That reaction is treading a thin line, and without context a child might start blaming themselves, Sharpe said.
"Be alert to that they’re listening and may not have a way of understanding all that’s going on and especially the younger ones may get the mistaken idea that they’re somehow to blame for all of this," she said.
Parents should be honest with their children about your own situation, even if it’s uncertain, Sharpe said. She advises using general terms and answering their questions, but above all else you should reiterate that you will make it through this as a family.