Talk to your kids about the small stuff, and eventually they’ll talk to you about the big stuff.
This was one of the best pieces of advice my husband and I received as new parents. So, from very early on, our mindset was that if it was important to them, it was important to us. No question or topic would be off limits.
When our kids were young, it was easy. Usually, those talks centered around basic questions children ask as they are figuring out their place in the world around them. Like, “Why can’t I be a mermaid?,” or “What happens if I put that cord in a socket?”
As they got older and their world got bigger, the questions got more… I would say, interesting. This was the true test: would we stand by our promise that no topic was off limits?
Our kids have asked us about everything. I mean EVERYTHING. From drugs and addiction, to sex and sexual identity, to harassment and consent, to song lyrics and jokes that make me blush just thinking about them. (Pro parent tip: having those talks in the car is the best, since you don’t have to make eye contact.)
However awkward the topic may have been, if it was a part of their world outside our home, then it was an acceptable conversation inside our home.
Our kids knew that they could trust us to be open and honest with them. Sometimes they agreed with us, sometimes they didn’t. To be honest, sometimes my husband and I didn’t even agree with each other. But we worked through difficult, real-world issues in the safety of our family unit. If they couldn’t come to their parents, whom would they trust to fill in the blanks?
However, there was one topic that we could never seem to be fully honest about. We would answer vaguely or simply dismiss their questions as impolite and inappropriate.
What was that topic? Finances.
Sure, our kids had chores and allowances. We talked about spending, saving and giving. But when our children would ask about our finances, the type of open and honest financial discussions that would prepare them for the world didn’t happen.
“How much does papa make?”
Our answer: “He makes enough to take care of our needs and also to provide for some of our wants.”
“How much did our house cost?”
Our answer: “Cost doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have a roof over our heads.”
If we could tackle questions about sex and drugs, why were we so hesitant to be honest and open about money?
A few years ago, we attended a conference regarding investments and financial planning; and one of the key takeaways was that we should be talking to our children about money. There is no magic wand you wave when they turn 18 so they would instantaneously understand this stuff. (Wouldn’t that be nice, though?!)
So, after the conference, we sat down with our kids and told them they could ask us anything they had ever wanted to know about our financial status that we had been afraid to answer.
What resulted was a wonderful discussion about salaries and monthly expenses, mortgages and loans, 401(k)s and risky investments, college funds and credit card debt.
We didn’t cover everything in one sit-down, and I am sure they don’t remember all we discussed. But the important thing is that we opened the door for the conversation to happen. Suddenly, finances weren’t something mysterious and off limits, but part of a regular family dialogue.
If we don’t offer them the guidance and instruction they need, who will?
There are so many fun resources out there to help start conversations for any age and stage of life! A few I recommend are The Book of Questions, a fun card game called Ferret Flush and board game Would You Rather.
On the financial side, Compass has a variety of resources that will improve your own knowledge of biblical financial principles that you can then incorporate into the conversations you have with your family and children. And the Give, Save & Spend financial discipleship study is designed for the 16- to 22-year-old age group. It teaches God’s perspective of managing money and possessions for the next generation and provides practical applications and future scenarios for handling finances God’s way, equipping students for a life-long journey of financial discipleship. Learn more here: https://compass1.org/give-save-spend/.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 offers some practical instructions: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Talk, I mean really talk, to your children about money. It may not be easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard. We owe it to our children to make the effort. There will never be a topic too small or too big when it comes to them.
Meredith is an active member of Christ Journey Church in Coral Gables, Fla., where she now works after spending several years as a stay-at-home mom to her two children, Ella and Hans. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s in history and a minor in Spanish. Meredith loves serving women in her community. She is the advisor for her sorority at the University of Miami and has faithfully led a weekly women’s Bible study since 2005. She and her husband, Hans, live in Miami, Fla.