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Financial Stress and Your Children

The U.S. economy's woes have plagued the news and most adults' conversations lately. But, to what degree should you let your children know how you feel about your finances? You'd be surprised to know, more than you think.

But first, let's talk about you. If you're stressed about money, we want you to know that you're not alone. In June the American Psychological Association did an online survey to see just how many of us are affected by our finances. The survey found that 75 percent of adults polled named money as the No.1 source of stress in their lives.

Now let's move on to your kids. Your children are smart (hey, they take after you). Kids of all ages are great at sensing things, especially the things you don't want them to know. They can tell when you're upset about money. And, if you don't talk to them about it, they'll imagine the worst.

What should you say? Well, it depends on their age. Younger children (which for this purpose we would define as under the age of 12), tend to see thing in a very dramatic manner. So your small financial worries can easily appear to be of Armageddon-proportions to them. For children in this age category we recommend telling them, There is a lot of bad economic news out there, but our family will work together to make sure we are all fine. Your goal is to acknowledge that something is going on, but to highlight your confidence that your family can figure out a solid game plan for financial survival.

Conversely, if you have teenagers we suggest that you go into more detail. For instance, tell them, point blank, that times are tough but this too shall pass. Be blunt and say that you may seem a little stressed or nervous and that from time to time you?ll ask for their help for ways to cut back or save money. Kids in this age range like to help and get involved, so make them part of the solution. One of our favorite tools for teens is to point out the relationship between how much they could earn per hour baby-sitting and mowing lawns and the price of whatever they may want to buy. For example, if your teen wants a $70 pair of shoes and can earn $7 an hour doing odd jobs, ask him if that item is really worth 10 hours of his hard work. The relationship between money and work can't be taught early enough in our opinion.

The key is to realize that if you say nothing about the current economic turmoil, you may actually hurt, not help your children. If you say nothing you'll either make them more fearful, or lead them to think that life never has any road bumps. The message you want to leave is that life presents challenges, and that's ok. Together as a family you'll deal with them.

For more financial advice, visit Military.com's Money Channel.

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