By Jill Darcey
When the rest of the world is reporting financial doom and gloom, what do our teens think? In a generation which we see more and more young people struggling with hopelessness, is this media frenzy really helping?
As parents, especially inside a Complex Family (those who have been touched by separation, divorce or some form of family breakdown), it is important we discuss these issues with our kids. It does not mean we have all the answers but open conversation will at least stimulate the process of learning. If we do not talk with them about it they will come to their own conclusions and this may not be the ones we assume they will. The silence may be interpreted as a ‘no go zone’ or worse yet, a hopelessness which saps the natural youthfulness right out of them. Their reactions will vary depending on their individual personalities and knowledge but one world over, if we’re not talking with them, someone else is painting the picture for them.
So to start, we acknowledge we need to talk, but what do we actually say? Here’s a perspective which will give you some ideas on how you can best talk with your kids about what is going on in the world today. Be honest with them. Explain what you do know and while explaining this, say to them this is the most information you know about it, but you know there is a lot more going on than what you know.
Be strong about security. Our kids want to know that it is going to be ok. Especially when being inside a Complex Family, often the kids have seen parents struggle and have a history of ‘going bad’ for them, so they will be looking for security that it’s all going to be okay. This is a great opportunity for parents to really step up to the challenge. This does not mean that you say ‘nothing is going to change’ but everything can be okay. Depending on your own financial situation, you may well be affected by the worldwide crisis but this does not need to be rocking their security.
Let’s look at security for a moment. We all want to have security in our lives, and depending on our journey this will determine where we look to, to provide this feeling. If we have built a family culture that reflects property, possessions and things of material value as being our sense of security, this crisis may well be causing some bumpy times however, it could be a wake-up call for our family culture to start re-evaluating where it gains security from.
If we have a family culture which is building our sense of security from hope, love, harmony, creativity and some higher power, we will have more to hold on to in times of financial crisis. A family that understand this will have an air of ‘it’s okay, we’re not sure how, but it’s okay’. A family without it will be fearful and panicked. This is not to say that the family with a family culture of valued principles at its core will not have a very real feeling of loss when material possessions are gone, but there is a calming acceptance present also.
Talking with our kids about the crisis, (age appropriate) is key to creating the security they desire. If we are about to lose our house, we have not lost each other. If we are about to have to give up some activities because it’s just too tight to squeeze the budget any further, start creating a free family event in its place. As parents, see all these changes are done with the minimal amount of ‘loss’ involved and in its place recognize the advantages, without invalidating the feelings of loss along the way. All too often we use the excuse of money to avoid us getting creative with how we can solve the issue. If activities are having to change, see them as a phase of change instead of ‘doom and gloom, over and out’. This is a time of change, so find a creative solution that brings happiness. Talk about the natural seasons of our year – spring, summer, winter and autumn. The natural beauty of each season which we can embrace and how we may be in a winter right now but that doesn’t mean springtime won’t show up.
In times of crisis, this is when we teach through Leading by Example just what it takes to pull together as a team. Our kids will have friends whose families are losing and have no way of dealing with these issues. They’ll be angry, hurt, disillusioned and all forms of emotions will be bubbling away. Instead of thinking, “Oh well, that’s them not us”, lend a helping hand. If we cannot do it physically, help their kids by creating a safe space for them to be. Become one of those parents who gives to our village and start building the lives of our children’s friends constructively. It does make a difference. Our kid’s friends will tell us things they’re too scared to tell their parents given half an opportunity. They already see our family is Complex! It’s not exactly living up to any great ‘together’ tag that some of them are coming from, so perhaps we can give them permission to get real just when they need it the most. Talk to them about how to deal with the feelings around the scenarios rather than just trying to ‘solve the problem’. If we spend our energy attempting to solve problems, we interfere with their own journey of understanding. However if we guide, suggest and impart our small pieces of wisdom in how to handle the situation, we empower them to grow through this and take action themselves.
If we start looking at why the world has ended up in the financial mess it has, broadly speaking, it’s due to our fixation with the power of money. We’ve been in a financial trance (as one well-known person said). Money itself if neither good, nor bad but we have given it too much power, and it has to be brought back into balance for us all individually, and globally. Through years of increasing greed, we now see first home prices, almost out of reach for our children’s generation. We see more clearly the hypocrisy of those who are starving in both our own countries and in the economically developing countries. The problems seem so big and out of our control and yet it is these types of world-wide financial crisis which force us to start looking at where the power is and what balance needs to be brought back in.
This is allowing our children to know that there are consequences for behaviour and choices. There are natural cycles which life goes through and as an individual we need to accept our personal part of this. We need to learn from it and make changes. If we have teens, we can give them hope of learning some valuable lessons now while still in their formative years. These teens are lucky, they can learn without having to be 50 or 60 years old and wondering how their world has changed so quickly. These teens are the ones who can learn how to be responsible about their financial choices early and in that way, place strong foundations for the years ahead.
Although we can feel deeply overwhelmed by this time, take the time to grow greater acceptance, more wisdom and enlarged capacity for another. It is tough times like these that we see a fork in the road, so what path will we take? The one where we become more beautiful and we hold more hope and courage for the future; or the one where we become hard and rigid, coming out fighting for our rights.
In summary, the first thing we need to do in talking to our children about the worldwide financial crisis, is to make peace with it ourselves. The peace that we carry will be caught emotionally, and intellectually it will make sense through what we say. If we are only saying the words, our kids will be confused. A confused mind, always says no.
Jill Darcey (Author, Parent, Founder & Speaker), a mother of three; thousands of hours in counseling and coaching; and more than a decade of split-family co-parenting. Jill has both experience and wisdom; she’s learned a lot of what does and doesn’t work – and some of it the hard way!
Whether you are at the beginning of this journey, or a little further down the track and have been parenting with an Ex for a while, grab a copy of ‘Parenting with the Ex Factor’. It is over 400 pages and is a practical and real ‘How To’ guide for parents; it answers over 60 FAQs that builds a strong platform for you to form your Complex Family, instead of taking the normal split family or broken home route.
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