Living in one of the most industrialized nations in the world, American kids are some of the world’s strongest consumers. For them, shopping is as commonplace as brushing teeth. Without proper financial education and guidance, some kids slip into the path of shopping addiction.
Defining the Problem
Shopping addiction is the overwhelming compulsion to shop. When a person is addicted to shopping, they have difficulty stopping spending, even though they may realize that they cannot cover the expense. Some signs of shopping addiction are:
1) Spending without a plan
2) Repeatedly selecting shopping as the pastime of choice when bored
3) Becoming upset when unable to shop
4) Borrowing money or asking for advances on allowances to shop
Shopping Addiction and Kids
Even though today’s kids are enormously busy with school and extracurricular activities, hanging out at the mall tops the list of favorite pastimes. Additionally, modern children have easier access to goods and services than ever before—with just the click of a mouse, a kid can order an item from halfway around the world and not think twice about it. Parents and caregivers also are working more hours, meaning that it’s more difficult to monitor what kids are doing through the day. Some parents compensate for the time they have to spend away from home by pumping up their children’s allowances, as well. Simply put, kids are in a position to buy and often see spending as normal.
Shopping addiction is a serious problem for adults, but it’s even worse for kids because kids still are so emotionally driven. They make purchases largely because of how the product makes them feel in the moment. Shopping addiction isn’t that much different than alcoholism or drug addiction in that it can cause the release of feel good chemicals such as serotonin. The more your child shops, the better he feels, and over time, he may come to shopping again and again as a way to be happy. This helps your child in the short-term, but in the long-term, it sets your child up for poor financial planning and management.
With shopping addiction providing a physical “high,” simply telling your child not to shop might not be enough. You might need to eliminate a few of the channels through which your child buys. For example, if your child tends to buy things online without your consent, you can block certain shopping websites or set a password on the family computer. You still want to leave some channels open, however, because 1) your child will have legitimate needs he can take care of on his own if permitted, and 2) you have to show your child you trust him to make the right choices.
Next, you have to identify the reasons why your child is using shopping to feel good—kids deal with all kinds of issues such as divorce, abuse, academic pressure and social struggles, and just like playing a video game or reading a book, shopping can be a distraction from those problems. Talk with your child about what is going on and, if necessary, let him talk to a professional counselor while doing what you can to reduce stress. Present alternate behaviors for shopping, as well, such as learning music or learning how to make some of the items that would be purchased. Lastly, work with your child to create a reasonable budget. Check in with him often—daily if necessary—to keep him on track. This positive behavioral conditioning will make it more likely that your child reviews his finances before buying later on.