Working Together through the COVID-19 Outbreak as a Family
It’s a Family Thing
Communicate with children about money matters.
From as early of an age as four or five years old, children can be taught they are part of a team and the family team has to modify some behaviors to help conserve money. When communicating about money matters with children, try to remain as calm, clear, and concise as possible. Pause to answer their questions as they arise, understanding that kids will be kids and their timing might not always be the greatest. Whatever the time or circumstance when they decide to voice their concerns, remember what you say is just as important as your tone and how you do the explaining.
Age and Maturity Levels Matter
Of course what you say to whom will depend on their age and maturity level. For instance, a four year old can be taught to turn the water off while brushing their teeth and to turn off the lights when they leave a room. A tween can be asked to not stand with the refrigerator door open and to take shorter showers to cut down on utility bills. Ask your tweens and teens to come up with ideas for how the family can cut back. You may wish to start by asking them to embrace their creativity and to dream up ideas for family activities that won’t cost money. You might be surprised to see when unleashed, just how creative they can be. Enlisting help from children encourages ownership in the success of the family weathering ‘the storm’. Identifying cost-cutting goals for the family helps youth to strengthen their problem-solving skills. After all, as emerging adults they will be faced with multiple money decisions every day. Challenging them to brainstorm with you will serve them well when they leave the nest.
Research shows that teen employment increases family costs for transportation, clothing, and food. Together with your working teen, analyze the expenses and income from their job. At this current time, do the costs outweigh the benefits to the family? Secondly, even if up until now your youth’s earnings were all their own, the COVID-19 outbreak may be the reason to consider asking them to chip in. The amount is not as important as involving them in concrete solutions to real world problems; actively enlist them to help the family weather these trying times. Keep in mind that research suggests limiting students’ work load to no more than ten hours per week reduces potential negative impacts on their academics and overall well-being.
It’s very likely that during this time of social isolation and quarantines, your teen is not earning money. They may need to dip into their savings to contribute to the family budget. There’s a huge lesson here. Without savings and an emergency fund, weathering difficult and unexpected times is even that much more difficult. Once the outbreak passes and we slowly begin to assume our normal lives, encourage your teen to replenish what was used or you may want to repay them in full or part. Take care to remember the power of sharing and the joy that being part of a solution bring.
Viewing Obstacles and Opportunities
Teach a valuable life skill to your children.
The COVID-19 outbreak is tragic indeed but it has provided a perfect time to teach a valuable life skill to your children, and that is the concept of needs versus wants. We all know that to survive we require water, food, clothing, shelter and for most of us, transportation is essential. Bottled water, restaurant food and prepared meals, name brand clothing, and luxury cars drain our wallets and impact our bottom line, especially when our resources have been significantly reduced by the outbreak. Explaining this concept by using examples that actually apply to your household are the most helpful. “We’re going to sit down together and plan our meals and make a grocery list and this is how much money we have to work with.” “If you insist on that particular brand, you’ll have to make this purchase using your own money. Understand I will not make up the difference with family money when the next thing comes up and you have depleted your personal funds.”
United We Stand
Your family will weather these uncertain times. Positive things will come about as a result of this tragic period. To name a few, appreciation for what you have, the value of examining needs and wants before spending, and of course, the reason for good planning. Looking back you will begin to see there were lessons and more lessons, which is a good thing.