I guarantee you that your kids are just like mine. They are not thinking about how the current economic crisis will impact the holiday season. That is way too big a leap for most kids. However, you know it’s going to be a leaner season this year. But don’t get anxious. Your kids will feel the tension. Instead, start preparing now to ensure the upcoming season remains a celebration:

1.) Apply “KISS”: Keep your message to your kids simple, reassuring and literal, so they understand.

Literal translation:

Q:“Will we spend less on gifts this holiday season?”
Q:“Does that mean we will not have any presents?”

2.) Do not yell about money: If you and your spouse have hostile exchanges about money, you increase the likelihood that your kids will have emotional and behavioral problems. Literally, that translates into kids that will be depressed and anxious, have adjustment problems and poor peer relationships.

Don’t hide the truth — kids will pick up on your anxiety. Gather for a family meal and explain that this year there is less money to go around. Then enlist their ideas to make a family plan for holiday celebrations.

Literal translation: Suggest a family grab-bag this season. Everyone gets a name and gives a gift of time, talent and money to that special person.

Let’s say Big Brother gets Mom in the grab-bag. He creates some coupons that spell out how he will give Mom his time and talent. Big Brother gives his time to Mom by offering to help younger kids with homework twice a week, and gives his talent by volunteering to make dinner every Wednesday for a month. Those coupons can be wrapped up along with a smaller gift bought with cash.

Kids always have great ideas for time and talent gifts. After your family meeting, suggest that each member of your family come up with a gift list that includes the time, talent and small purchased gift they covet and write that list on the slip of paper along with their name. That way, whoever pulls the name will know exactly what that special person desires.

Gifts of time and talent plus a smaller gift that requires cash will make the giving less self-centered and more family focused.

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Written by Susan Beacham
Susan Beacham founded Money Savvy Generation in 1999 after almost two decades in private banking and investment management complemented by considerable time teaching at the elementary level.

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