Most parents know that they should talk to their kids about sex, but they try to put off the discussion as long as possible, and when they do broach the topic, the child has likely already heard plenty from friends, television and school. Other parents never get up the nerve to have the discussion and hope that school sex ed classes will teach kids all they need to know.
Surprisingly, parents may feel just as uncomfortable broaching the topic of money with their children. “Attitudes about money can expose the deepest aspects of our personality or insecurities. We have a feeling, largely unconscious, that it might reveal too much about us. It might reveal our irrationality, impulsiveness and the unthought-out nature of our money attitudes” (Today Money).
Unspoken Ways to Teach Your Kids about Money
Kids learn from how you handle money. If you want to teach your children about money, keep in mind that even if you never have a discussion, your child is learning how to handle money and the importance of money through your actions. If he sees you spend more than you have on credit cards and then stress about how to pay the bill at the end of the month, that’s what he learns as normal. If he sees you save and wait patiently until you have the cash up front to pay for something, that is what he learns.
We’re in the midst of paying down student loan and credit card debt, and we save up money to pay cash for everything. On a recent vacation, I was bursting with pride when I saw my 8-year-old son carefully budget out how much he wanted to spend at each place we visited. When he decided to purchase something that was above his budget, he decided to not buy something at the next place. Without a word of coaching from me, he stuck to his budget. We do talk to him about money and choices, but he’s also learning from watching us.
Let kids handle their own money. If you give your child an allowance, let her handle their own money and make their own choices. If she wants to spend her entire weekly allowance on magazines, let her. But then, when she wants money later in the week for something else, don’t give her more. Let her learn that every purchase has a consequence and that spending all her money at once probably isn’t the best idea.
Ways to Discuss Money for Parents Who Are Uncomfortable Doing So
If you’re uncomfortable discussing money with your kids, try other ways to teach them about money.
Play a game with them. There are plenty of games out there that center around money. Monopoly and Life are two old school games that come to mind. Simply playing the game together can open up a natural money discussion that might not feel as awkward as just sitting down to talk about money.
Order a course for them. Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Kit has helped many people learn about money and get out of debt. He also offers Financial Peace Junior which is suitable for kids from ages 3 to 12, though it’s probably better suited for kids 6 and older. Both my 8-year-old and 4-year-old liked listening to the CDs and completing the activities.
Explain what you’re doing as you do it. Younger children love to learn from mom and dad, so why not explain what you’re doing as you do it. If you’re comparing prices at the grocery store, explain to your little ones why you’re doing it and how you do it. They’ll learn and be more receptive to financial lessons from you as they get older.
Talking to your kids about money isn’t easy. However, the more open you are with the kids from the beginning, the easier it will be. Don’t worry about having a “money talk.” Instead, teach them about money through your actions, games, and explaining what you’re doing financially when you do it. The more you can teach your children about managing their money, the better your chance to be an empty nester instead of a retiree with her 35-year-old child living with her.