NDSU Extension - Sargent County

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We Can't Afford That

familyI distinctly recall during my elementary school years when I became aware that our family financial situation was not good.  Mom and Dad didn’t talk to me about it, but I had overhead their conversations, and I could sense the tension.  As the first-born child, I took it upon myself to convene my siblings, advise them of the situation according to my perspective and understanding, and roll-out some kid-sized strategies for cutting corners and surviving the tough times. 

Concerns about the ag economy and what it means to families is once again on our minds, in the news, and in our conversations.  When money becomes scarce, the whole family, from young children to teens to parents, can feel the pinch. Though family members may have limited or no control over the causes of their financial difficulties, they can control their responses and discuss money problems in a way that minimizes stress and anxiety in children.

Parents are encouraged to take a proactive approach and talk to their children about money.  NDSU Extension offers guidance for this task in a publication titled, “Talking to Children About Money.”  A few suggestions regarding discussions about money problems include:

Turn tough times into learning situations. Help children realize that managing money in tough times requires communication, patience and hard work. Also, assist children to understand that money problems do not need to rob the family of unity or happiness. Simple things that cost little or nothing can enrich family life, and sticking together is essential to getting through challenges.

Create and take advantage of ways to have fun as a family in free or less expensive ways.  Consider picnics at the park or backyard, renting a video and making popcorn, riding bicycles as a family, volunteering on a service project or other family activities.

Increase family communication and solidarity and help children feel some control in their lives. Take time to communicate regularly, discuss financial concerns appropriately and express to all family members that they are loved and appreciated.

Involve all family members in making decisions about money. In both tough times and good times, families tend to draw closer as they work together and communicate in making money decisions. Children grow in understanding and self-worth when they contribute to the resolution of financial problems. This may involve a teen getting a part-time job or children agreeing to limit their requests for outside entertainment, such as movies.

Assist children to become wise consumers and discipline their spending habits. During tough times, children can learn to be wise about their spending choices and use discipline in how they spend money.

Encourage children to contribute in ways that are appropriate to their age. Children can help during tough times by saving money they earn, limiting their spending choices or requests, or contributing income from a part-time job to help with family needs. Do not put undue burdens on children to generate economic support, but discuss options and allow them to contribute in ways that are meaningful.

Contact the Extension Office to request a free copy of “Talking to Children About Money,” or view it online at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/famsci/fs1441.pdf

Photo Source:  https://pixabay.com/en/persons-family-parents-kid-child-731514/  (Downloaded 4-12-16)

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