By Benjamin Temin
Welcome back for Part 3 of our series focusing on conversations about money with ourselves and people we love. In Part 1 , we discussed the importance of self-reflection and knowledge of one’s own money habits and influences. In Part 2 , we looked at building trust and cohesion around financial wellness with our partners through communication.
This time we are going to be talking about speaking to and engaging with children about money. (Special thanks to Kylie Delgato of Cash Campaign of Maryland for some of the ideas and topics highlighted below.) It is important to note that this guidance is not just for parents, but for teachers, coaches, other family members, and professionals working with children.
As with any topic, children are very curious and impressionable. They have a way of observing their environment with open eyes and ears as they sort things out on their level. Very young children haven’t had any experiences, good or bad, with money, and therefore offer a clean slate on which to teach and discuss what can be a complicated topic. Parents and other guardians should reflect on what attitudes and values about money they have developed over a lifetime of experience, knowing that children will pick up on those and may develop similar habits. Here are a couple points to think about:
- Money topics are really life skills. When kids learn about saving and spending money, they are learning about delayed gratification opportunity cost and that things have value and utility. People might think that children are too young to talk about money, but these life skills are developed in the preschool and school age years.
- It’s best to be honest and encourage curiosity. If you’ve spent time around little ones you probably realized that they say what’s on their mind. Even if they ask an uncomfortable question like, “Daddy, how much money do you make,” don’t brush off the question or let the conversation stop there. It’s okay to say that you don’t like to give specific details, but maybe share what someone starting out in your industry might make. Talk about what is valuable to you and how what you do at work supports those values. The important thing is to ensure that kids feel comfortable asking their questions and won’t think money topics are off-limits.
- Teach the value of giving. Along with spending and saving, parents and guardians can teach children to share money and develop a habit of giving. Making a charity box can be a fun activity and the child can practice putting a coin in each day. Adults should also model generosity and charity in front of children – they will notice. These early lessons will have a big impact on their financial lives as adults.
A word about content – there are many sources out there giving financial advice. As adults, we can develop filters to know what is trustworthy and what might be more dubious or trying to sell something. Children depend on us to make sure the content they see is reliable and age appropriate.
Talking honestly with your children about money and engaging in a positive and exciting way will go a long way towards building confidence and a healthy relationship with money as they grow older. It’s one of the important gifts you can give them.
In Part 4 of our series, we’ll talk about discussing money with teenagers and young adults, so stay tuned!
Benjamin Temin is a Coordinator for Economic Sufficiency at Jewish Community Services
JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.