Talk to Your Kids About Family Budget Cuts

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Family budget cuts are a reality for many right now. Depending on how you talk to your kids, these changes can actually help families to grow closer. Here are some Do’s, Don’ts and Guidelines.

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DON’T

1) Ignore the problem.

2) Let your stress build and build.

3) Fight about money in front of the kids.

4) Talk to bill collectors in front of the kids.

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DO

1) Privately conduct a realistic assessment of your finances.

2) Negotiate privately with lenders.

3) Develop a realistic financial plan, based on your current resources.

4) Make a list of items to sell or services to cut or modify

Guidelines

Now that the grown-ups have a realistic idea of what the next steps look like, hold a family meeting.

Remember that you are the expert on your family, and consider your kids’ ages and maturity levels when deciding what to share and how.

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When you talk to your kids:

1) Be honest.

2) Be specific.

3) Explain that all kinds of families are going through changes right now, whether they are rich, poor or somewhere in the middle.

4) Reassure your kids that these adjustments are about STUFF, not about the FAMILY, and that the family is just fine.

5) Reassure the kids that the grown-ups have it covered, and that the coming adjustments aren’t their fault or their worry.

6) Give the kids the opportunity to ask questions and share feelings.

7) Explain that this is a great time for the family to pull together and help each other out, and talk about how to do that.

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The changes your family makes will vary widely based on your circumstances. Be specific with your kids about what these changes will look like, and talk about how the changes will impact them specifically.

If your changes are big and you need to move, tell them straight up.

Example: Dad’s job has changed, and we need to move to a different house. Our new place is a 2 bedroom townhouse, over on Maple Street, near where Susie lives.

At this point be prepared to answer lots of questions and then drive them over to see the new place.

1) Yes, you will have to start sharing a room.

2) No, your school won’t change.

3) Absolutely! Fido can come. He’s part of the family, isn’t he? We will have to walk him on a leash though, and be careful to pick up his poo.

4) Sure, you’ll have places to play. There’s a big playground and a swimming pool at the new place.

Give the kids time to absorb the changes and talk about their feelings as they arise. If they are sad or mad, let them know that those are perfectly normal feelings. It’s even okay to let them know that you feel sad or mad too.

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Have a follow up meeting to let them know about moving plans and about more modest changes. Focus on what you get to keep, rather than what you are giving up.

Examples include:

1) Once a week, let’s make a pizza instead of ordering out. Let the kids experiment with toppings. (You can MAKE pizzas?? Wow. How do you do that?)

2) Right now we get 147 channels on TV. We’re going to cut down to 28. (Did you know Grandma grew up with only 2 1/2 channels?!)

3) We can still have cell phones, but we will use them mostly for texting instead of talking. For talking, we’ll need to share the land-line (or Voip).

4) Let’s check out the “free movie store” (the public library) this weekend instead of Blockbuster.

5) Our family is really busy! Maybe too busy. Instead of being involved in soccer, music lessons, pottery making, and magic class, let’s pick 1-2 favorite activities and focus on getting really good at those things.

6) We can still have birthday parties. This year we can have 10 friends over for hamburgers, ice cream, cake and a water slide in the back yard (as opposed to pizza at the skating rink).

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Talk about how the kids can help, and ask for their suggestions. Some examples might be:

1) Turn off the lights when you leave the room.

2) Remember to close the door as you come and go.

3) Turn off the water when you brush your teeth.

4) Dad is looking for a job, so please be extra quiet when he’s on the phone.

5) Mom is working extra hours, so it would be a really big help if you would (insert an appropriate task … feed the dog, load the dishwasher, fold the towels) every day.

6) Give Mom or Dad and extra hug now and then.

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