3 Most Common Mistakes: Talking to Kids About the Recession
How to break bad economic news by the Babble Editors
July 17, 2009
What are the three most common mistakes parents make when talking to their kids about the recession?
Expert: Jamie Woolf, Author of Mom-in-Chief: How Wisdom from the Workplace Can Save Your Family From Chaos.
1. Underestimating your child’s emotional intelligence
“I think it’s crazy when parents say, ‘Oh, everything’s fine, there’s nothing to worry about,’ when, in fact, there is something to worry about it, like Daddy being laid off or the family having to move. When you don’t tell your kids the truth, they’ll actually stop trusting their instincts. A big part of emotional intelligence is picking up on non-verbal cues. They can see the worry on your face. They can sense the hushed tones between Mommy and Daddy, the extra stress and irritability in the house. Instead of telling your kids everything’s going to be okay, say, ‘Yes, people are losing their jobs, but we’re going to be okay. We have savings and a house we can make payments on for a long time.’ Provide true assurance. But another big mistake is …”
2. Speaking too soon
“Keep quiet until you have specific plans and never say never. It’s all about credibility. If you say to your kid, ‘I’m never going to lose my job,’ or ‘We’ll always live in this city,’ you might not be able to make good on that promise. Your kids take what you say to be absolute truth. So only guarantee what you can, like ‘Our family will stick this out together,’ or ‘I will always be here for you.’ Then as soon as you have specific information regarding your family’s future, share it with your kids. But toe the line between truth and secrecy. Decide what they need to know and what will scare them. If you’re divorced, make sure you and your ex stick to a unified message. If one parent says, ‘We’ll never move,’ and the other says, ‘We might have to move,’ it’s confusing. Get together and decide what you’re both telling your child.”
3. Not validating your child’s anger
“Say the worst happens. Daddy’s been laid off. Or there’s a job opportunity that requires you to move. Your child’s probably going to be scared, angry, or resentful. Acknowledge that, and let them express those feelings. Tell your child things like, ‘It’s natural to be scared about having to move,’ ‘You’re not going to feel this way forever,’ or ‘It might not seem like it right now, but everything’s going to be okay.’ As a leader of the family, don’t brush off your child’s bitterness toward change.”
As told to Andrea Zimmerman.