There is no better time than in the midst of a global economic crisis to re-evaluate our financial priorities; especially when we are a generation of parents who are raising children in an age where electronics change and become obsolete almost the minute we have purchased something and walk out of the store.
Our whole culture perpetuates for us and our children that we have to dress and look a certain way, have the latest and best toys and technology, and that we are entitled to have all of these things and have them NOW!
The concept of “watching what we spend” is difficult for most children to understand. Just telling your children that there is less money to buy material things and to appreciate what they already have, just isn’t real enough for them.
Their acceptance of this concept needs to be rooted in something tangible. Children also need to have a point of reference from which they come to know and feel gratitude.
Here are some ways you can help your children adapt during this economic downturn and perhaps acquire some appreciation for what they already have:
1. Define the difference between needs and wants. A child may need a new pair of shoes because old ones are too small; but do the shoes need to be the most expensive brand name?
2. Ask your children to convince you! If they can’t come up with a good enough reason for you buying them something or paying for some type of activity, then the answer is NO.
3. Start giving an allowance of an appropriate amount (of which you can afford). If they are old enough not to put coins in their mouth, then they are old enough to start learning about the value of money. Instruct children that they have to save a percentage and give away a percentage to charity and that another percentage will go toward their extracurricular activities (swimming, movies, admission prices, arcades etc.). The remaining amount can be spent on something of their choice. Children will learn very quickly the value of a dollar and just how long it takes to be able to afford something.
4. For every item that is bought new, have your children exchange it for something old to give away to charity.
5. For the things your children “want”, require that they earn these items by taking on extra chores around the house or by volunteering in the community. You could also ask your children to contribute some money out of their allowance savings.
6. Volunteer with your child at a community hospital or charity campaign that supports people who are less fortunate.
7. Replace electronic videos and computer games with quality time with your children. Reintroduce creativity into your family’s life. Dust off those board games, go for nature walks, tell stories around the fireplace, and take up a craft you can work on together. Not only will you be saving money on your electricity bill but you’ll also be enhancing family relationships.
8. Model self-control. You can’t expect your children to cut back if you’re not able to.
Dyan Eybergen, a child and adolescent psychiatric nurse, has more than ten years experience working as a therapist and parent educator. Eybergen currently resides in St. Albert, Alberta, with her husband and three sons. Out of the Mouths of Babes is her first book. For more information visit www.childperspectiveparenting.com.