She says home-schooling meant, in part, that she couldn't ever hide money challenges from her children. During particularly tight months, the family would get together to discuss what was happening. "We included them in those conversations," Bouchelle says, "I didn't want there to be unexplained tension. I think that is frightening for children if they don't know. Children have a tendency to think they did something wrong if mom and dad are upset."
The survey says that more than one-third (38 percent) of parents avoid talking about their financial situation with their children. And the kids know it.
Ritter says parents should feel free to talk with their kids about financial things. "We shouldn't use a lack of perfection on our part as an excuse to not talk with our children," he says. "It's OK to share. It's OK to share some of the adversity you faced and what you did to overcome it — or how you may be trying to deal with it now."
Tetreault says the best time to help kids learn good financial habits is when they are young — "while they still like you and think you know everything," she says.
One of the things she did when the kids were younger was to give her kids an allowance. She also made it so the kids had to use some of their allowance to buy their own underwear, socks and birthday gifts for family and friends. This taught them, she says, the difference between spending for needs and wants.
Tetreault also says part of teaching kids is modeling the behavior and showing that the great things in life do not involve shopping or going to the mall, but in experiences. For example, for her birthday, instead of material gifts, Tetreault has her husband and kids choose a poem each to memorize and recite to her. "I absolutely love this," she says. "It is such a gift to see what they will choose."
Ritter, however, notices that it is getting more difficult to model proper money behavior.
"We saw our parents writing checks and paying bills and arguing about the money," he says.
Today, bills do not come in the mail. People do not write paper checks.
"I need to do more for my kids to experience that same kind of discussion than our parents had to do," he says.
Bouchelle says the same thing. When her kids were smaller, she went out of her way to use cash in front of them and would, if there was nobody waiting behind them in line, have the kids count out the money to pay for items.
As her kids grew older, Bouchelle involved them in bigger decisions.
She says she had many discussions about money with one of her daughters who is a very talented ballerina. The girl worked to pay for her lessons. For expensive summer programs, she often had to choose carefully among various options. These decisions also often involved the rest of the family making some sacrifices for her. "These discussions are very good experiences," Bouchelle says, "although they are sometimes hard."
Ritter acknowledges that talking about money isn't always easy, but says his wife does an amazing job with their kids.
And for people to be part of a team, money needs to be discussed. "It's a lot to juggle," he says, "and she does it well — as do most moms."
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