“How Much Do I Cost?”

Two unrelated stories with similar origins:

#1:  My family and I were walking through a furniture store today and I overheard a boy (probably 9 years old) asking his father, “How much do I cost each week?”  The dad chuckled, but I couldn’t hear his reply.

#2:  I was in a board meeting last week at which the company’s management presented a budget for 2009.  As we talked it through, we realized that none of us had the foggiest notion how much growth to expect next year.  And this from a company that doubled revenues in 2008 vs. 2007.

What’s the common thread?  It’s the economy, and our kids know something big is amiss.  We have a bunch of friends in financial services; a couple have already been let go and the rest are understandably anxious.  At a dinner party on Saturday night a woman revealed that her husband’s dream of retiring five years from now would have to be pushed back at least 5-7 years.  I know two families looking at selling their houses to move into apartments.  Think their kids know what’s going on?  I bet they do.

The angle that’s not getting much play is the impact on kids.  I posted recently on the stress that American kids are under – and that post had nothing to do with the economy!  Kids are perceptive and even the young ones are sure to understand that something big and bad has happened in the outside world.  It will be difficult for we parents to shield our conversations and concerns from our children.  I haven’t been through this kind of a crisis before, but I have three suggestions that may help protect our children from bearing the brunt of all this uncertainty:

  1. Listen closely.  If your child is stressed about the economy, she needs your help sorting through those concerns.  Don’t let your own anxiety eclipse your children’s fears or questions.
  2. Speak carefully.  The vocabulary of this crisis – liquidity, interest rates, mortgage backed securities – is foreign to our children.  If they ask, answer their questions in words they understand that won’t inflame their fears.
  3. Be patient.  We are never as patient when we are stressed.  Make an effort to maintain an even keel around the house.  Remember:  It’s not their fault, so don’t take it out on them.

Our kids are depending on us more than ever.  Don’t add to their stress!

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