This can help if:
- you’re having money problems
- you’re increasingly feeling stressed about money issues
- you’re not sure how to talk to your teens about financial problems
- your family has been fighting over money
Managing the ups and downs of life means that you may find yourself dealing with money problems at some point. While it can feel isolating, it's actually really common, with 40 per cent of Australians experiencing financial difficulties in 2023, according to NAB's Financial Hardship report. Managing your finances can leave you feeling stressed, worried and angry – and on top of this, it can be hard to know what to tell your teen.
Speaking about money issues may ease some of your stress and allow your family to tackle your current financial problems as a team. We’ve put together some tips for talking to a teenager about money problems, to help you start the conversation.
Is it okay to talk to teens about money?
Talking to a teenager about money problems can seem risky. You might be worried that you’ll overload them with ‘adult problems’ or that it will stress them out. However, a calm and open conversation can help teens to understand what’s going on and reassure them that it’s not their fault.
Conversations with teens about money can also promote their independence and help them to feel more prepared for making financial decisions for themselves as adults. Research shows that teens want to be included in family discussions, as it helps them to feel involved in the family and more confident about tackling challenges.
Signs that money issues are causing problems in the family
The following are signs that your family is being affected by financial problems:
- you’re having more arguments with your partner or children
- you’ve been ‘snapping’ at your children or punishing them more harshly
- your children seem worried, upset or angry
- your children have been acting up
How to have the chat (without freaking them out)
- Make a plan of what you want to say. Write down the key things your teen needs to know. This will help you to stay focused and calm when you talk to them.
- Prepare yourself for likely questions. Think about how your family’s current money issues might affect your teen and what they will want to know. For example, they might be concerned that they may have to limit their extracurricular activities.
- Think positively about the situation and how your family can overcome it. This might mean writing down possible solutions for each problem, or listing your family members’ strengths and thinking of ways these can help you to get through this financially difficult time together.
- Wait until the time is right to chat so that everyone involved can be calm, attentive and involved. Actively schedule a time to talk, rather than trying to squeeze in a chat before school or diving straight into an important conversation after a busy day.
- Create a safe space for the chat by finding a location that is private, comfortable and calming. This will be different for every family, but it’s safest to steer clear of where you deal with paperwork and bills.
- Remain calm and relaxed, and speak clearly. Be aware of your body language and ensure it is open, relaxed and friendly.
- Focus on the facts and steer your teen away from speculative thoughts about what could happen or worst-case scenarios.
- Use positive language to frame the money problem as a challenge that the family can overcome.
- Be realistic about what you can promise your teen. You can’t guarantee that you’ll win Lotto, but you can assure them you’ll always have their back.
- Let your teen steer the conversation and ask questions, so they can set the pace for sharing information. Take note of their body language and tone of voice, and listen to what they’re actually saying, then tailor your responses accordingly. For example, if they seem upset, anxious or angry, assure them that the family is taking steps to overcome the money issue and give them space to calm down.
- Encourage their involvement in whatever capacity you’re both comfortable with. Being involved in finding solutions to problems now will benefit your teen in the future, when they have to make financial decisions for themselves. It may also ease your stress if you feel that your family is approaching this challenge as a team.
- Check in on your teenager to ensure they feel safe, happy and confident that the family can overcome the problem.
- Encourage your teen to practise self-care and monitor any changes in their behaviour.
- Keep the subject open for further discussion by letting your teen know they are welcome to ask questions and that you’ll keep them up to date.
- Look after yourself. When money’s tight, it can be hard to relax. Try to make time for the things that make you and your family happy. Even something small, like taking a walk together in a local park or having a family movie night at home, can help.
Did you find what you needed?
- Yes - Check out these tips for dealing with financial stress.
- No - Read more about how you can communicate effectively with your teen.
- I need to know more - Money issues are stressful for the whole family. Sign up for ReachOut Parents One-on-One Support and get some personalised help.