Ways to help your teen cope with an economic crisis

Do not underestimate or overestimate your teen.

by Debra Beck — 

I remember being a teenager in the early 1970s when we were suffering through a recession. The economic downturn permeated our lives. All that my parents could talk about was the shortage of gas, the higher cost of groceries and how they were going to keep paying the bills. As a teenager, I did not have the coping skills, and recall being afraid and just wanting to run away from all the fear.

If your family is being affected by the current economic recession, don’t forget to help your children weather the crisis. You might be surprised at how troubled your teenagers are about this situation. Without parental support, teens will turn to their friends and, in so doing, could be tempted to engage in activities like drinking alcohol or using drugs to escape the pressure or chaos they feel.

So what can you do to help your teen cope with financial stress and reduce the anxiety that comes with a depressed economic climate? Here are seven tips to consider:

1. Be careful how you talk about your money issues when children are around. If you are getting ramped up and emotional about your worsening financial situation, it will make them fearful. Keep your money conversations with your partner to scheduled times when the kids aren’t around.

2. Initiate family discussions about the economy. Ask your children what they know about money matters, what they have learned at school and how they feel about the economic crisis. Encourage questions. This is a great opportunity to teach your teen about economics, money management and coping tools. It is never too early to learn life skills.

3. If your family is feeling the impact of our worsening economy, talk about what you are doing to get through the crisis. Explain that you are watching your spending during these times and how this strategy can help. Reassure your teenager that you are taking care of business, that everything is OK and that the slump is not permanent.

4. Do not underestimate or overestimate your teen. Although being open about your family’s financial situation is always a good idea and helps to lessen any fear and anxiety, remember to keep your discussions age appropriate.

5. Not having the usual amount of spending money, does not mean you can’t have fun. Get creative about spending quality time with your teen. There are wonderful card and board games that are sure to get your family laughing. Go on walks, hikes and bike rides. Spend time reminiscing about family vacations, camping trips or other happy and/or funny memories.

6. Remind your teen that you are not alone; many people are going through the exact same challenges. Talk about what you as a family can do to help reduce waste, cut costs and help others cope with the economic slump. Perhaps your teen can help an elderly neighbor, or plan some potluck meals with other families who are having trouble keeping up with their bills. Thinking of others always brings in some breathing space and perspective.

7. Be grateful for what you do have, and help your teen appreciate all the blessings in life. You can start a daily gratitude journal together, and list 10 things each day that make you happy. This is a surefire way to lift your spirits.

Every little bit helps. These are turbulent times for most everyone, but plenty of ideas for weathering the storm exist that can bring people together in a wonderful new way.


Debra Beck has mentored teenage girls, teaching “girl power” workshops as well as creating and facilitating Spirited Youth. She is the author of My Feet Aren’t Ugly: A Girl’s Guide to Loving Herself From the Inside Out. www.myfeetarentugly.com, debra@myfeetarentugly.com or 928-300-0441.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 1, Feb/Mar 2009.

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