Should You Tell Your Kids About Your Debt?


If you’re a parent, you know raising a child is no small feat. You do the best you can and hope you’re preparing them to lead successful, satisfying and meaningful lives as adults. There are a myriad of ways to handle the milestones your child faces and there’s often not one clear-cut best way to respond in every situation. Thankfully, the milestones your child faces and the significant life experiences you go through as parents provide great teaching opportunities.

One such instance is telling your kids about your debt. To some, this is a taboo topic that should be excluded from conversations with children. As nearly three quarters of adults deal with financial stress, you don’t want to cause undue stress that can fester inside your child’s thoughts or emotions. You don’t want to scare them but you also want to prepare them to manage their finances confidently as adults and avoid some of the mistakes you may have made.

Telling your children about your debt is going to depend largely on the child. There is no cut and dry way to do it, as it needs to be personalized to you and your family situation. If you’re deciding whether or not to discuss debt with your child, the following tips should help.

Don’t Make it Scary for Them

The most important thing in being transparent about your financial situation with your child is not making it scary for them. You want to make it comfortable and casual so think about having it in that kind of setting. Think over dinner during the course of discussion as opposed to sitting them down with a list of things to talk about.

There is a number of reasons for this strategy, but the key is to make your child feel secure and loved as you are talking with them about your debt. Scaring them will do little to accomplish that. You might feel inclined to provide them extreme details as to the why or how, and that depends on your child and their age, but focus on the basics of what you’re doing to change and how it will help you as a family.

Confidence is also a part of success with the discussion. If you have a partner, make sure you’re on the same page. Be sensitive to the questions your child may have and answer them with sensitivity and honesty as that can go a long way towards helping them feel more secure.

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Take Advantage of the Opportunity

You may not realize it, but being transparent about your debt with your children can provide a great opportunity to teach them about money. It is situations like dealing with debt that can allow your child to begin to form a financial mindset she’ll take with her as an adult.

You may be tempted to avoid talking about your debt, but don’t shy away from it out of fear. In fact, your debt repayment can help teach your child that money is something to be used to accomplish the things you want in life. Though possibly embarrassing, your debt repayment can help her see the power of managing money as opposed to letting it control you.

Explain How Things Will Change

On a practical level, one important reason to tell your kids about your debt is to help them see how things will change as you pay off debt. Getting out of debt will require some changes and sacrifice, and you’ll want to make sure the changes don’t come as a shock to your children.

Key in this is explaining that just because you’re paying off debt as a family doesn’t mean you can’t do fun things. It just means that you need to be creative about it. Find fun, creative ways to involve them and make them feel a part of the effort to make financial strides as a family – just make sure to show how much you appreciate it.

There is no right answer as to when you should tell your children about your debt, but when handled in a wise way, debt discussions can be a great way to help children formulate the financial mindsets they’ll carry for years to come.

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  • 90david

    sounds like a real kill joy just take your time paying the bills kids and enjoying life comes first.