Dealing with financial stress

Pensive middle aged woman holding a cup of tea in kitchen

If you’ve lost your job, had your shifts cut, or you’re having a tough time stretching your family’s budget to cover everyone’s needs and wants, you’ll know how difficult financial stress can make things. You and your family may have to make big sacrifices in your lifestyle in order to stay afloat, and this might be making you feel insecure as a parent.

When money is tight, it’s especially hard because not only do you have to sort out your financial situation, but you also have to cope with the feelings of stress and anxiety the situation is causing you and your family. Fortunately, there are helpful ways you can do both.

How to cope with feelings of financial stress

Financial troubles are complicated and often take time to resolve. In the meantime, it’s important to work through the stress that you and your teen are feeling as a result.

Have a conversation about money with your teen

It can be hard to talk about money issues with your teen. Read our article on how to have conversations about money and the future. Here are some more tips on how to make the conversation easier:

  • Plan what you want to say. This will help you to clarify what your teen needs to know, and what they don’t.

  • Conversations like these are easier if you have them in a comfortable, private space, at a time that works for everyone.

  • Focus on the facts. You’ll need to recognise when the discussion is going into negative territory and ‘worst-case scenarios’.

Think of things you’re grateful for

Because financial troubles can make you feel so vulnerable, it might seem pointless to try and see anything positive about the situation. But by practising a bit of gratitude, you’ll recognise that you and your family have many things to be thankful for. It can also help to give you and your teen some balance if you are overly focused on the negatives.

Here are a few things you might be grateful for:

  • The time you have together.

  • Friends and extended family.

  • Exciting things coming up in the future.

Try out new ways to spend time together.

If you’re going through hard times financially, your favourite way of spending family time together may not be available to you at the moment.

Here are some ideas for things you could do with your teenager, or together as a family, that won’t break the bank:

  • Take walks in new places.

  • Organise a board game or movie night at home.

  • Go to the park and kick a footy together.

  • Find ways to give back to your community, such as by helping out elderly family, friends or neighbours.

  • Learn a new craft, hobby or skill together.

  • Find out when local museums are having a ‘free’ day (usually about once a month).

Look into one-on-one support

If the dynamic between you and your family has been particularly difficult because of financial stress, you could consider ReachOut’s free one-on-one support service for parents. The program is run over the phone and is available nationwide. It’s a fantastic way to find positive ways to support your teen and strengthen your relationship as a family.

Tips for dealing with your financial situation

Here are a few things you can do when bills and other expenses are piling up and you’re unable to make ends meet.

Talk to your teen’s school

For parents, the cost of sending your teenager to school can often be substantial. Thankfully, most schools are able to be flexible if your financial situation has become uncertain. They may have programs to help out parents like yourself; or at the least, you might be able to defer payments until a better time. Depending on your teen’s school, they may even be able to help out with the cost of uniforms, books or even a computer.

Find out if other bills can be deferred

Based on your provider, bills such as water, gas, energy or internet may be able to be deferred if you’re in a difficult spot financially. You can also use things like bill smoothing to make sure there aren’t any big shocks when bill time rolls around. Set aside some time when you’re feeling relaxed, ring up the provider, and ask how they may be able to support you during this time.

Find out if you’re eligible for assistance payments

You might already be aware of payments like Jobseeker and Jobkeeper, but there are also other government payments for parents that can help people in your situation. Read more about these here.

Patience is key

Often, the thing that fixes financial stress is time – time to find a new job, or time to get used to a new situation. In the meantime, if you’re able to maintain a bit of stability and stay positive, that will help you and your family.

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