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Parenting- What to Tell Kids When Money is Tight With Grainne Ryan

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Ireland is currently in the grip of a recession, and many families are finding money tight. Many parents will have to explain to children why they can't afford a holiday this year, or other luxuries like new toys, computer games or clothes. With job losses being announced every day, more and more families are going to find themselves in this situation. For children who have been used to the endless presents, new trainers and unlimited pocket money it may come as a shock to find out that their parents can no longer afford these luxuries. However, while it is important to explain the situation, how can we make sure that children aren't being burdened with worries about their parents financial difficulties, and whether they will have a roof over their head and food on the table?

Today Grainne Ryan is in studio to tell us what to tell the kids-and what not to tell them-when money is tight. Later today she will also be taking calls from worried parents.


Grainne Ryan - Parenting Coach
Presenter of Baby on Board Series 2. Grainne is a public health nurse and midwife and mother of three children. Areas of interest child development, parenting issues, adolescent development and post natal depression and works as a public health nurse in Ennis Co. Clare.

Some background on current situation:
Unemployment is currently standing at 8.3% which predictions that it will reach 10% by the end of the year (source: INOU)

The number of people on the Live Register is expected to surpass the 300,000 mark for the first time as early as next month (source: Irish Times)

Last year more than 2,000 jobs were lost each week, and the rate of job losses is accelerating. By the end of this year the number of people unemployed could touch 400,000 (Source: Irish Independent)

Recent job news:

Dell-1900 jobs lost,
Waterford Wedgwood went into receivership, threatening 800 jobs
670 workers at Tara Mines in Navan being placed on protective notice.
(Source: Sunday Business Post)
Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan warns decisions on public sector cuts are imminent. (Irish Times)

Grainne's Advice:
. Discuss the issues with your children in an age appropriate way but without causing undue stress. There is a fine line about making them aware and making them worried. It's important to be honest with your children, but don't tell more than they need to know. Children of all ages will pick up on stresses in the house, by looking at body language, reactions etc. Its better be honest with them than they imagining situation a lot worse.

. Children can generally handle the truth, even when it is bad news. What they can't and shouldn't have to deal with are the adult worries they can do nothing about. You can tell them the basic facts of your family's finances that you have less money right now than you did last year but spare the details of mortgage and negative equity.

. If your hours at work are reduced for example you could say that your job is paying less so you have less money to spend on extras and get them involved in how to reduce costs within the house. But assure them that you have enough for food and home. What is important is that they are safe and loved within the family unit.

. Look at what is positive also.. You or Dad will have extra time to spend with them to take them to the park, library or collect them from school.

. If you act like it's normal, they'll accept it as normal .ie " we are going to buy fewer presents this year because we need to be smart about managing our money".

. If children complain about lack of designer labels etc, avoid saying things like " You are so greedy, you don't appreciate what I'm doing" it better to try something like this
. " I wish with all my might that I could afford the particular trainers but it wouldn't be smart because we have to make sure we can pay our bills".

. Try and approach changes in a upbeat manner and this will rub off on your children. They will take the cue from you. They will even learn lessons about saving, budgeting and preventing waste.

. Talk about difference between things they need versus things they want.

. Get the family involved by asking everyone to make suggestions for their

. favourite free family fun thing to do.

Age appropriate debt talk
. Under age 6: Children in this age group need to be reassured that parents are working on solving the problem and that they are safe and secure. They want to know what specific things they can do to help
. Ages 6-12 Adolescents and preteens want to feel like they are part of the team as well as be reassured.. They are eager to please and want to know their parents are in control.
. Ages 13-17: Teens can understand a great deal about whats going on. They think of themselves as independent, but they want to be part of the team too.

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