Have debt? Join the club. That’s apparently the word on the street these days, with the typical household having thousands of dollars in credit card, mortgage, vehicle, education and other debt. Despite how widespread debt is, people are still quite reluctant to talk about it openly with their kids. This is somewhat understandable, considering that parents usually don’t want to admit that money is tight—such an admission can make you feel like a failure, an ugly troll of sorts who can’t even get his family out from under Owing Someone Bridge and into the sunshine of Secure Financial Pastures. Before you spill the beans about your situation to your kids, consider these elements.
Kids See and Feel More Than You Might Think
In a perfect world, your debt wouldn’t bother you at all, but this is real life. Most people worry about how they’re going to make payments, and it’s rare for someone to be able to mask their emotions completely. Even if you don’t openly say that money is the problem, they’ll see that something is eating at you, and sooner or later, they’ll likely ask what the trouble is. If you tell your kids about your debt yourself instead of waiting for them to ask, you can think ahead to what you want to say and won’t be caught off guard. You also lessen the risk that they’ll blame themselves for your negative feelings, as you can clarify that the issue is funds, not them. You can be straightforward about what has motivated money-related changes in your household, as well.
Kids Don’t Have Tight Lips
Children don’t always know what is appropriate to say or do to or with others, and as long as they feel comfortable, they’ll spew any information they want to talk about, whether it’s asked for or not. If you tell your kids you have money woes, it likely won’t be a secret for very long. This isn’t necessarily bad, as people who know you’re in trouble can help, but it can be awkward.
Children Can Blow Things Out of Proportion
Perspective is something that comes with experience and knowledge. You might understand that your $1,000 in credit card debt is doable, for instance, but a young child might translate that to being one step away from living in a cardboard box. He’ll need some extra reassurance as a result of this tendency to balloon problems.
It’s Possible for Kids to Learn and Help
Having debt is not entirely bad in that it provides an opportunity for you to teach your child how to handle it. For example, you can show how you’ve worked debt repayment into your budget, or why you are choosing to pay off the debt with the highest rate of interest first. Ultimately, you, not your children, are responsible for the debt you’ve accumulated, but as your kids learn, they can keep you accountable. Even young kids can help out by doing things like clipping coupons so you have a little extra every week to send to your creditors and service providers. Older kids might even be able to work to contribute reasonably to the household so that they’re more independent and you have more funds to put toward the debt.
Debt is somewhat of a taboo subject, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense to keep your kids entirely in the dark about it. No one says you have to tell them to the penny what you owe, but kids do need to know they aren’t the problem and that you have things under control. It’s likely better to be honest about what is happening and to let your kids learn and help where they can