Financial literacy is starting to become a focal point in schools. For that, I’m very thankful. While I believe introducing financial concepts to students earlier would be more beneficial, I’m grateful for the progress we have seen. But before you think that we can leave your child’s financial education solely to our schools, think again. Doing so could leave your child’s money mental health in jeopardy.
Financial Mental Health
I’m confident schools will do well discussing the hard facts about personal finance. What is an asset, what is credit, and what is debt? But financial literacy is more than just definitions. There are a lot of emotions wrapped up in how we use our money. That is why you need to be involved in teaching financial literacy.
You know your child better than anyone, and I believe you are a better advisor when it comes to your child’s emotional well-being. So while in the classroom your child will get to understand some of the nitty-gritty of finance, you can be there to discuss:
* How you feel when you buy something
* How you feel when your savings account is at zero
* How you feel when you give to charity
* How you feel when you get paid for work well done
Feelings Drive Actions
I am a big basketball fan, and I live in Toronto. So when Toronto was in the NBA finals, it was a big deal for me. Over two weeks, I gained ten pounds. Why? I was stress eating. All the tension of the series had me overeating. I’ve known I stress-eat for a while. When I’m down, I reach for sugar and crave comfort foods. There are feelings tied to the way I eat. The same is true for the way I spend and save.
Think back to the last purchase you made for yourself. How did that make you feel? Did you get a little high off of the transaction? That euphoric feeling can become addictive, and drive our behaviour, just like my stress drove me to overeat.
Whether retail therapy is good or bad depends on you. But the only way to answer that question is to understand how you feel since your feelings drive actions. I know what my triggers are for stress eating—knowing that, I can choose how to manage it. The same is true for the emotions that drive our financial behaviours, like saving, spending or giving.
Talk About Their Feelings
There is a lot of feelings that go into what we do with our money. When we have something in our lives that is not right, we may seek out a councillor to help us deal with our feelings. The hope is that by identifying our emotions and our triggers, we can change how we react. I want parents and guardians to be our children’s first financial councillors. Parents can help children work out the complicated feelings they may have around managing money. As much as I know teachers are there for our kids to talk to, they change year over year. And with counselling, sometimes what you need is consistency.
So don’t be afraid to talk to your children about how they felt when they had to pay back a loan or when they finally were able to save up and buy that big-ticket item. Getting them to acknowledge their emotions will better enable them to have healthy financial mental health habits and give them the tools to deal with those complex emotions on their own.