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How to talk about money with kids

Couples who divorce will often see a significant shift in their finances. The family must now divide their income and savings between two households. This can be a significant adjustment for the couple, but it can be an even bigger adjustment for the kids if they have a share a bedroom at dad’s apartment or mom’s “new” car is smaller or older than her old one.

Talking about money with loved ones can be difficult, particularly when there is less to go around. Family experts often recommend that couples have open and frank discussions about finances, but talks with kids will need a different approach. It will vary, depending on their ages. Very young kids need to be told little or nothing, and they may not even notice. Older kids will need to know more.

Tips for making it work

Here are some strategies for enabling them to process this change:

  • Tell them: Explain the reason for the changes so they don’t make up a story that places blame on themselves.
  • Explain it in terms they understand: It may be as simple as saying the family needs to spend less for a while. Make it clear that they are not responsible for “fixing” the situation.
  • Make lists: Have them make lists of things that they love and try to include at least some of them in the budget. If something is too expensive, make it a goal to work towards and set a schedule for revisiting these goals.
  • Keep favorite foods: Favorite foods provide a sense of normalcy (“Comfort food” is a real thing!) and can be an important cue for setting a positive atmosphere. Have everyone list their favorite foods. It can be ice cream for dessert, a specific affordable restaurant, chips and salsa with a movie, or a special family meal.

Everyone needs to adjust

We are living in unprecedented times that include a downturn in the economy. Parents are unable to hide specific facts if they are not working or working less. Everyone needs to adjust their expectations and perhaps even make changes to their parenting plan if they are furloughed or unemployed.

Those with questions about their support agreement and a parenting plan may wish to consult with a family law attorney. They can often guide clients even when so much is up in the air.

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