Break It to ‘Em Gently: Telling Kids About Financial Woes

Sue Shellenbarger:

As hard as it is, as much as I’d like to avoid it, it’s time to have The Talk with my kids.
I’m not talking about the birds and the bees. I’m talking about the need to cut spending — to downsize my budget to reduce debt and gird for higher-than-expected college costs. I’m finding it surprisingly hard to communicate with my children, 18 and 21, about this. Based on my email and comments on our blog,, other parents are struggling too. Some spouses are fighting about how much to tell their children about financial setbacks. Others are just not saying why Daddy or Mommy has suddenly started driving the daily car pool.
In truth, the information we’re trying so hard to hide or dress up for our kids probably doesn’t matter nearly as much to them as how they see us behaving and feeling. “In conversations with kids of any age, how you say it is more important than what you say,” says Ralph E. Cash, president of the National Association of School Psychologists.
In my own case, at least, providing well for my kids has gotten tangled up in my mind with showing my love for them. Separating the two is making The Talk harder.