Divorce, Kids, and Money


Talking to children about divorce and money

Many parents fear that exposing their child to real life problems will damage the child for life.  These parent, therefore, trudge through tough times denying the realities of the situation in hopes their children will remain unaware of what is going on around them.  However, keeping children in the dark can lead to larger long-term problems like anxiety and a loss of trust.  Moreover, ignoring these problems denies parents a valuable teaching moment, one in which life skills can be taught to children in a loving and age appropriate manner.

So, how do you explain to your children that you must spend less now?  I understand that these types of conversations can make you feel worse than you already do.  I suggest you start by talking about your goals, rather than focusing on what you are leaving behind.  Your attitude is key here.  If you approach this subject with guilt or a sense that you have failed your children, you are telegraphing to them that they should feel disappointed or angry.

Acknowledge that you wish there was plenty of money for everything you and they could ever want, but tell them that is not where your family is at right now.  Have a discussion with your children about the difference between “needs” and “wants”.  Help them understand the difference between a need (food and water) and a want (a $200 pair of sneakers rather than an affordable $60 pair).

Life throws curveballs at all of us from time to time.  Help your children understand that this is one of those times and right now your family needs to work hard to spend less so you can focus on new goals.  Maybe that goal is paying off credit card debt, maybe that goal is knowing how important it is to save money for the future, or maybe just maintaining an acceptable standard of living during a divorce.

Obviously, how much information you share will depend on the particular child, the child’s developmental stage and the severity of the situation.  But children should always be respected as individuals and allowed to ask questions (even the tough ones).