Children are aware of money at an early age, long before they go to school, according to CUNA’s Director of Youth Programs Philip Heckman. Interactive discussions--rather than lectures--are most helpful.
Heckman says parents should allow kids to ask questions, express opinions, and have input to decisions.
With young children it’s better to wait until they initiate discussions; even older ones may be more receptive if they ask the question. Sometimes, however, important matters require a sit-down discussion. Says Heckman: “Be reassuring and assess, based on the age of the child, how much they’ll understand and how much detail to offer.”
“If the change will affect the child, such as a cutback in the family budget, that’s something that needs to be explained,” says Heckman. “The child will understand and relate to that.” Indeed, parents often are surprised at how supportive their children are when cutbacks are required. If you discuss how you’ll reduce spending, children may volunteer to cut their own spending.
Talk openly with your children about things you’d like to buy but can’t afford. If you save for an item, let kids see you doing so. If you buy something you haven’t budgeted for, discuss what you’ll give up buying in exchange. “Show that it’s not just kids that have to go without--parents have limits too,” advises Heckman.