Financial stressors are a leading cause of family stress. In fact, according to an article in the Huffington Post, finances rank as one of the leading causes of divorce. With financial issues negatively impacting marriage, the tension, hurtful words, name calling and finger pointing, have a high likelihood of negatively impacting children in the home. Now, we’re not saying that families with lower incomes experience more stressful environments than those with higher incomes. Stress is a result of how a situation is perceived. Money itself may not be the main factor, but merely the way the finances are handled, and how the adults in the situation view and act on the perceived stress. There are several practical ways you can be working as a family to relieve financial stress.
How you handle your finances both in numbers and attitude can determine the tension level in your home. Here are some ways to keep the tension level down even among some of the most challenging financial times, so that your family will weather this emotional storm.
Create a Budget and Stick to It
Any first rule of financial wellness is budgeting. Take what you bring in and allocate funds accordingly. This includes needs like food, shelter, clothing and transportation based on your family’s needs. You then have bills and hopefully enough extra funds for fun or putting funds away for emergencies or savings.
Having a budget that you can stay within is the goal all should strive toward.
Have a Weekly Budget Date with Your Partner
In many cases, there is one member in the adult partnership who is the main manager of the family’s finances. This is fine as long as both individuals have a voice in how the money is spent and that there is complete honesty on both sides.
A way to do this is to have a weekly budget date to discuss things in a respectful and non-finger-pointing way. This can be a 30-minute date in the kitchen while the kids are asleep, and may we suggest doing it over candle light to bring in a calming ambiance.
Be Open with Your Children about Finances
Finances are an often complex issue that many parents keep from their children in an effort not to burden them. On the other hand, there are those who proclaim daily in a loud, frustrated voice that “there isn’t any money!” Some will even bring the expenses related to kids up in anger, causing children to feel resented or as if they are the problem.
It is important to talk to your children about finances but do so in an educational way. Discuss the budget, sharing with your kids that it costs money to live in a home, and to heat and cool that home. Cars cost money, as do gas and insurance. You don’t need to tell them the exact amount you pay, but simply making them aware of the fact that things cost money, may help them be more sensitive, and think twice before asking for more video games.
Make Couple and Family Financial Goals
As a couple, make financial goals. Maybe you want to pay off consumer debt or put money away in a savings or retirement fund. Revisit these goals during your weekly date to see how things are progressing.
Likewise, work as a family toward a family goal like taking a vacation. One way to do this is through a change jar. Having a container that everyone can see will give the whole family motivation toward that common goal. You may even find that your kids will give up buying those extra things like candy and treats to put it away for the family goal.
Finances can cause stress, but if focused on in a positive direction, it can bring families together in a wonderful way. For more resources or to get connected with a counselor click here.