The Talk: The Down Economy
Tweens & Teens
By Laura Betts, LICSW, MSW
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As your child moves into the tween and teen years, they are able to engage in abstract thought and make hypothesis about the world. While it may not seem like it, their thinking is more flexible than it was in earlier years and they are gaining the ability to understand complicated issues such as the economy. Teens are also focused on becoming more independent, figuring out who they are, and starting to plan for their future. Teens live in a material world full of gadgets, music, and owning the latest thing, all of which is reinforced by the media. They face pressures to have/spend money, however this doesn’t mean you need to hand over a credit card to appease them.
Don’t be surprised if your teen doesn’t really want to talk about the general state of the economy, but on some level they are certainly taking in what you are saying! Car rides are a perfect time to begin this kind to talk – they are trapped in the car and you can avoid the awkward face to face conversations. Naming the issue sends the message that this is something that is on the table for discussion, and is not off limits. Talking is important, but listening to get a sense of what might be on your teens mind is just as important.
I know you probably have noticed on the news and at school that people are losing jobs and homes right now. The economy isn’t doing well, so we are trying to be careful about how much money we spend right now, which is why we have cut back a lot on unnecessary spending. I know that this could be tough for you because there are a lot of things that you want and things that your friends have. We will get through this. This has been a confusing time for a lot of people, even adults, and I am wondering if you have any questions.
• Support your teen in having spending money. Given the material world they inhabit, a part-time job or allowance for chores (when an option) is important to them and gives them a sense of the value of money. They may also want to find a way they can contribute, but don’t count on it.
• They are more likely to find a way to make a difference through volunteering with their peers.
• If they are planning for their future, while the specifics of a conversation are beyond this article, talk with your teen about what may be the financial constraints but also what is possible in terms of college and getting a higher education/vocational training.
• Be mindful that your teen doesn’t feel overly burdened by financial issues.
• If your teen has questions about understanding the economy consider listening to the explanations provided by This American Life on NPR or other news specials (that you have screened first) that discuss what you hear.
• If you are watching a television show or the news together and the economy is mentioned, this may be a natural opportunity to have a short conversation.