Money and our Children

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When it comes to small talk, the traditional Irish conversational fallback of the weather has been replaced in recent years by discussion of the cost of living.

We constantly talk about the rising costs of bills and our struggle to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads, but when it comes to our children it’s a subject we rarely share with them. After all, how can you expect a demanding six-year-old to understand the effects of the recession on your ability to purchase that new toy they’ve set their heart on? Is it best to keep your children in the dark or should you be open with them about your financial difficulties?

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) is aware of the strain many parents find themselves under and has some useful advice in addressing your financial situation with your children.

MABS stresses that you should avoid causing your child unnecessary worry, while at the same time ensuring they understand the role money plays in life. No child can be expected to understand how the stock market functions (few adults do) but at a young age, children learn how to count. When teaching your children about numbers, why not use money to illustrate addition and subtraction?

If Anne has two apples and Barry has three, explain how Anne and Barry needed money in order to purchase those apples.

Don’t allow your child to believe money grows on trees; find a simple way to explain where the household income comes from and make sure they understand there is a limited amount of money available.

Allow your children to become aware of financial priorities. Ensure they learn that food in their lunchbox and a roof over their head are essentials, whereas toys are a luxury.

Teach your children the importance of saving. A piggybank will get them into the habit of putting money aside and will create an awareness of how long it takes to accumulate the necessary funds for that toy they have their eyes on. It will also teach them that most of the things we desire require waiting, and that anticipation is half the fun.

Let your children know that the best things in life are free. Indulging in cost free fun such as enjoying a day at the playground will save you money while keeping your child happy and active. Encouraging your children to take part in sports will teach them that having money and being successful are not the same thing and that success can bring more personal satisfaction than money.

At your local MABS office you can pick up a Helping Hand at Home Planner, a useful calendar you can use to illustrate to your children how many bills you have to pay, and how often you have to pay them. If your child is looking for a gift, you can show them the calendar and let them know why you can or cannot indulge them at that time.

By Eric Hillis