Say you lose your job. How do you talk about it with your kids?
One in four parents favor straight talk, this week’s online poll found.
Some money conversations are harder than others. One of the most potentially painful and embarrassing is talking about job loss—with anyone, let alone with your kids.
But this week’s Poll the Parents found that, faced with a pink slip and an inquiring child, nearly a quarter of parents would tackle the topic head on. Most of you indicated that you’d adjust your approach to suit a kid’s age, while just a few said it’s best to sweep the entire matter under the rug.
Here are the results:
Some thoughts about each approach:
For the tight-lipped: Keeping mum can actually create more problems. Say your kid is in high school or college: Any changes in household income can have an impact on financial aid. Avoiding a forthright conversation about paying for college could take things from bad to worse when you don’t have enough to cover your share of the cost. Coming clean about your new situation, on the other hand, can be a big help. If your kid is already committed to a school and has a financial aid package, call the school’s financial aid office to explain the change in circumstances. Relief could be on the way. “Many colleges can use what is called ‘professional judgement’ to increase aid for the child of a recently unemployed worker,” Kal Chany writes in his essential college guide, Paying for College Without Going Broke.
For the straight talkers: Life is hard, indeed. Job loss can prompt major cutbacks in the family budget. It might mean relocating the family to find work. These changes will affect your kids whether or not you discuss them. But full disclosure might be too much for a kid to handle. Your first-grader doesn’t need to know that you’re weighing a withdrawal from your retirement account—something she may not understand or may cause her needless concern if she does. It wouldn’t be sugarcoating the situation to instead prepare her for upcoming sacrifices for the good of all: “We need to spend less money for now, so we’re going to be cooking at home more.”
For the rest: You’re on to something. Learning to have open but age-appropriate conversations is key. You’ll be surprised: Talking it over will have everyone—you and your kids—believing they can get over this bump in the road together.