Teens and Family Finances…Much is TMI

The economy is one of, if not the number one, concern of people across our nation. Unemployment figures are staggering and downright scary, college students are graduating without jobs to go to and student loans to repay, the cost of everything from gas to gum is higher than it has ever been (and in many cases still rising), and millions of Americans have lost their homes in foreclosure do a number of reasons

The effect these things have had on our lifestyles is undeniable and cannot be hidden from our children. This was never more obvious to me than when I sat down in our high school cafeteria to fill out the familiar forms for my youngest daughter’s senior year in high school. At that point in time, I had had a child in our little community’s school system for 23 years (I know, pretty amazing, right and for the first time there was actually a box to check if your student was homeless. This really got to me. Sure, there were homeless people in the city, but in our little town of less than 15,000 there was no reason to be homeless. Or was there? As it turns out, over 50 of the high school’s nearly 1,000 students admitted to being homeless. Another 30 gave the local women and children’s shelter as their address. That was nearly 10 %!

These sad and alarming statistics got me to thinking…how would I tell my teenage daughter (and her grown siblings, for that matter) that we were losing our home or that her father was unemployed – that there would be no money coming in?

How to break the news
If you are among the thousands of people who have recently lost their jobs or whose unemployment will be running out and no job is in sight, your teens need to be told of changes that have to be made. This can be done without putting an actual dollars and cents figure in their heads, but they deserve to know how and why the changes will affect them. But when you do tell them:

  • Be honest; the plant is closing, the office no longer has the client base to justify operations, there has been a buy-out and the new owners are bringing in their own staff…
  • Don’t be bitter; this isn’t what we want, but nothing comes from being bitter or placing blame.
  • Be optimistic without making promises you cannot keep; it may take a while to find another job and we may even have to relocate to do so, but no matter what, as your parents we will do whatever is necessary to make this as disruptive to your life as possible.
  • Ask that the family be united in the efforts to go through the necessary changes; it’s not going to be easy, but if we all work together to make little changes, we can hopefully get through this without having to make major changes.

Answers to their questions
Teens are naturally curious about how their families’ financial situations may affect their lives. This shouldn’t come as any big surprise. But answering these questions sometimes leaves parents scratching their heads. Hopefully this will help…

Q. How much money do you make?
A. We make enough to pay our expenses and to be able to pay for food, clothing and a few fun things each month. We have enough coming in to pay for your sports fees and put some in savings each month.
A. Because I’ve lost my job, things are pretty tight. We’re going to be able to meet our necessary expenses, but we’re all going to have to cut back. This means we’re going to have to ask you to…

Q. Will I be able to go to college?
A. Yes, you will be able to go to college. You may need to have a few more student loans than we originally thought, but working together, we’ll make it happen. There are also several scholarships available we can apply for.

Q. Why do we have to move?
A. It’s not what we want to do, but the house payment is simply too much for us with the drop in income. Let’s try and make the best of things and remember that a house doesn’t make a home – family does.

How your teen can benefit
They say there’s a silver lining in every cloud. Let’s look at what that lining can be in this situation…

  • Your teen will learn the value of relationships over material possessions
  • Your teen will learn valuable lessons in money management and budgeting
  • Your teen will learn to be sacrificial and selfless
  • Your teen will learn that love is give and take
  • Your teen will learn to be responsible and to contribute to the well being of the family

Final comments
Money isn’t an easy subject to talk about. It’s the number one cause of arguments in a marriage. But in today’s economic situation, money matters are unavoidable. So instead of hiding them or pretending they don’t exist, give your teen credit for being mature and responsible and make her part of the solution in reasonable fashion rather than robbing her of learning some valuable lessons that she can take with her into her own household some day.

The Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney with Care… And All That Other Stuff – Darla Noble

Christmas is quickly approaching – it’s only days away. Most of the shopping is already done, the tree is up and decorated and you’ve probably already indulged in at least a piece or two (or three or four) of Christmas fudge. Aahhh, Christmas. It’s that time of year when most everyone’s heart is in the right place and the spirit of good will toward men is the message of the day.

So why not seize the opportunity to make this time a special one between you and your teens? Take this time to call upon their feelings of good will toward men; use it to ease or even erase tension between them and you and to remind them of what a special gift they are to your family.

The word ‘tradition’ means to a belief or custom to hand down or pass on along to the next generation. That would be you passing on a custom or belief to them. The ‘you’ and ‘them’ denotes interaction and communication.

Don’t let those raised eyebrows, snickers, or eye-rolls fool you. Teenagers love traditions…as long as they can see a meaning or significance in them. Granted it doesn’t have to be a deep and philosophical meaning, but it does have to be relevant.

Okay, so maybe they’ve outgrown the trips to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap. Use their teen years as a catalyst to start new traditions or include them in new ways in older, established ones.

Something new
New traditions you can start with your teens include

  • Volunteering as a family to serve meals to the homeless after you’ve had your family time together on Christmas morning
  • Making or purchasing small gifts to give to residents of a nursing home
  • Sending packages to soldiers overseas
  • Visiting a veterans hospital and sharing cookies with them while they tell their stories to young people who need to hear them
  • Having a Christmas Day family Olympics or board game marathon
  • Taking a family vacation over Christmas break and making that their gift

Including them in older traditions
Including your teens in older traditions in a NEW (and more grown-up) fashion is a great way to let them know that you recognize who they are becoming as young adults and that you trust them to carry on the family traditions you hold dear. You can do this by putting them in charge of getting the tree and giving them free reign of decorating it, asking their help in wrapping gifts (not theirs), addressing Christmas cards, selecting a family photo for your card, doing the holiday baking, planning a family outing over the holidays or taking over such things as reading the Christmas story to the family, carving the ham or turkey or asking the blessing at the table.

Bring it home
Another way to make Christmas traditions special to your teens is to give them the history of established traditions. Why is that crumpled little paper angel the only one that can sit atop the tree? What’s so special about that plate the rolls are served on at dinner? Whose idea was it to give everyone a piece of black walnut and peanut butter fudge? What’s so special about the Christmas necklace you wear each year – the one that has a picture in it? Knowing the story behind what’s expected of them makes carrying on any tradition more satisfying and meaningful.

So… deck those halls, hang that holly and bring on that Christmas cheer.

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