Now that the gooey, gauzy, post Election Days of euphoria are creeping away from us and we’re back to the grim news of a tanking economy – the Big Three automakers begging for a bailout, Citibank’s announcement to lay off more than five times the population of Wasilla, Alaska, and Spam factories are running 24/7 because in hard times Americans flock to processed meat in a can (see last Sunday’s New York Times) – I wonder how we parents explain to our kids the dire situation America is in without completely freaking them out.
My friend Allison, a very sensible and fiscally prudent mom of three told me that she matter-of-factly explained to her seven-year-old son that we’re in tough economic times.
I was intrigued. At what age can you discuss these things? And how do you do it without giving your kids nightmares?
Because I grew up in a family where money (and lack of it) created tons of stress and anxiety, I am much more hesitant about talking to my children about the precarious nature of cash flow. My kids don’t need to know about what’s in my checking account – or do they? With my children I’ve always embraced the economy in more Kumbaya terms of social responsibility – you give to those who have less than you.
But what happens when your neighbor loses his or her job? Do you explain this to young children? Discussing money seems sort of like discussing death. It’s something we try to avoid talking about unless you really, really have to. So how do you create sensitivity and awareness in your kids without creating panic? And with the holidays approaching, how do you explain to your kids why buying a Wii or an American Girl doll just feels excessive?