Tips for Kids When Money Is Tight at Home

Money tight this holiday season? You’re not alone. Although some families are doing much better with the slow turn in the economy, others are still struggling. And, with your kids’ holiday lists often filled with expensive techy gadgets and gizmos, it can be overwhelming. Parents may be more stressed out than usual or arguing more. Some parents may even have to take on a second job. It can also be equally frustrating and upsetting for some kids to understand these issues. 

When the moment is right, be sure to calmly discuss news about belt-tightening concerns with your children. Keep the conversation light and appropriate to their maturity level. Be sure to listen to your children’s concerns and accentuate the positive. Reassure them that it is perfectly normal to feel anxious or sad about economic troubles.

Your children may show interest in helping where they can. If so, encourage them and share with them the following ideas that will not only make them feel like they’re contributing, but may help them cope with their frustration too. Remind your kids or teens to:

Think like an entrepreneur! Perhaps it’s time to hold a yard sale to get rid of the old toys and baby gear in the basement — or help your parents sell these items online. If you’re good at navigating online auction sites, you could charge people a fee to sell their old stuff.

Prioritize and plan for what you want. When you want something, write it down. Next to it, write how much you want it on a scale of 1-10. Keep this list going (items may move up or down the scale as you add new ones). Then figure out a plan to earn any must-have rewards.

Practice the art of patience. Some of your friends might have the latest cell phones, video games, and basketball shoes, but others may be having a tougher time than you. You may not be able to get everything you want, but now is a chance to see if you can master the art of patience without envying friends or feeling negative about your parents.

Focus on the positive. Writing down (or drawing) your frustrations in a journal can be a big step toward dealing with them. But also try to write down three things that you are grateful for each day.

Help your friends. What if a friend is in a really tight spot? Even if you can’t think how to help, try just listening: Tell your friend you know it must be hard and that you’ll be there for support no matter what. Most friends welcome the chance just to talk through feelings and know that someone understands.

Talk out troubles. If you are worried, find a good time and talk to your parents about it. Let them know you can handle the truth. If your parents are fighting, seem stressed, or are sad or angry all the time, talking can really help. If you can’t talk to your parents right now, lean on a friend, teacher, or counselor.

Don’t burden yourself. It’s good to learn how to deal with change, as well as step in to help friends and family. But it’s also good to remind yourself that you’re still young and family money troubles are outside your control.

For more tips, visit CHOC’s Kids Health education resource.

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