Financial Resource Center

Money Management


Holidays Are Rich With Teachable Moments

by Susan Tiffany, CCUFC / November 14th, 2019


Wise parents know that you're teaching your kids even when you're not teaching your kids. For example, you don't begin to teach your daughter to drive the day she receives her temporary driving permit. She’s been learning how to drive, watching you, every time she ridden in your car for the last 16 years.

Teaching your kids good life skills, particularly managing money, works the same way. Show them how to spend wisely, save, and determine if a product is worth the price. During the holidays, advertisers are working overtime to influence your kids. Point out ads to teach your children how advertising works and what advertisers hope to achieve. Common Sense Media has some good advice to help you with these conversations.

Help Kids Get Real

Managing expectations is a lifelong money management task you can start addressing early. Introduce the concepts of making choices, setting priorities, and separating wants from needs in clear ways.

  • If your son's gift list—for himself, of course—is out of control, suggest a dollar limit so he can be clear about your budget. Then give him play money to the limit you plan to spend to help him "shop" and put his list in priority order.
     
  • Redirect his focus by encouraging him to make a list of things he wants to give others. Help him decide how much he can afford by determining an amount for each gift.
     
  • Recommend gifts of time rather than money, like reading to a younger sibling.
     
  • Model your holiday spending behavior with good examples. Tell your child something like, "I'm choosing not to buy new boots this winter so I can buy Grandma a present instead."
     
  • If your family sends cards, ask your child to sign the cards. Talk about each of the recipients and why they are important to your family. This reminds the kids, and adults, that the holidays are a time of renewed connection and not merely about gift exchange.

Save, Spend, and Share

While gifts are likely to get top billing with your children, teach them the traditions of sharing and charity. A great example is the opening chapter of Louisa May Alcott's book Little Women. It occurs at Christmas during the Civil War, with the four sisters talking about the things they will buy with their small amounts of money. Each wants something related to her interests—drawing pencils, a new novel, sheet music. Then the girls rethink these ideas and instead decide to buy gifts for their mother, Marmee.

On Christmas morning, they awake to a special breakfast, only to learn their mother already has been up helping the impoverished Hummel family and their new baby. Reluctantly at first, the girls pack up the wonderful food and take it to share with the Hummel’s. There are numerous other stories about sharing and compassion available in books and DVDs. Find a few that will appeal to your kids.

The holidays can offer you many opportunities to teach your children important life skills, like money management, empathy, and self-control. You’ll also help them understand that their worth is not measured by what they own, but by how well they treat others.

 

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