If you’re a parent who’s experiencing debt problems, you may be wondering what, if anything, to tell your kids. Some parents feel it’s best to hide money troubles. That plan rarely pans out, because kids tend to be very good at picking up on unspoken clues. In the interest of careful disclosure and family honesty, we are pleased to present a few ways you can talk to your kids about debt.
What kids don’t need to know
Credit card, bankruptcy, and check cashing are terms that are better left out of the vocabulary of a very young child. Such is the considered opinion of money experts at Life and a Budget magazine. At the same time, you don’t want to avoid teaching your kids what debt is and how to manage it as they get older. If kids are taught -deliberately or inadvertently- that debt is a normal part of day to day life, they may grow up to build massive debt loads of their own.
Like it or not, kids are very apt to pick up on the financial tension in the home. If you understand the appropriates times and ages at which to talk to kids about money, they will better perceive and avoid the consequences of debt as they mature.
Little kids and the money talk
Until the age of five or so, children thrive best when they don’t know about money or the insecurity that can ensue when you don’t have enough. At this tender age, little kids need to feel secure. If a youngster overhears a parental conversation about mortgage and asks what a mortgage is, you can explain that mommy and daddy pay the bank every month because they are buying the safe home where the family lives.
If a grade school age child asks what a loan is, give an example of borrowing. Say you want to have their teddy bear, but only for a little while. Explain that when they hand over the bear, it is a loan and you’ll give it back when you are done borrowing it. Explain how grown-ups sometimes borrow things, like a house or a car, and make payments to a lender until the whole price of the house or car is paid. Assure them that once the payments are complete, the home or family vehicle belongs to the family.
Talk with older teens about debt and other money matters
Once a kid reaches the pre-teen years, they are typically better equipped to understand real debt as it pertains to the family unit. By age 13, most kids comprehend the difference between a house and a home. If unidentified calls come through while you’re talking to your teen about money and family finances, use a reverse phone lookup service to find out who’s calling. As kids get older, talk to them about business cycles, economic challenges, and the economic picture at large, advises Debt magazine.
Money is a fact of life, and like other facts of life, there are appropriate ages at which to divulge such information. Never make your kids feel like they are responsible for the family debt. So, however, allow them to be part of the conversation when they’re old enough.