Talking to Children about the Cost of Living
For months now, the news has been dominated with ‘cost of living crisis’ headlines, and fears of rising costs have increased now winter is here.
You may assume that financial news is of no concern to children, that it is purely a ‘grown-up’ issue. However, children can be directly impacted, or detect and absorb anxiety in the media and from adults around them.
You may be concerned children are worried by the news of rising costs.
Here’s what you can do as a teacher or parent.
Communicating the cost of living in an age-appropriate way
Child psychologist Dr Kimberley Bennett is quoted by the BBC as saying,
‘If a child is old enough to ask a question, then they deserve a factual and developmentally-appropriate response’.
Age-appropriate discussions are important for conducting your conversations about the cost of living successfully.
Finding a way to spell it out for children
Take the cost of living crisis back to basics in your conversations.
News stories related to money and the economy come with an array of financial terms, that even we as adults may sometimes struggle to understand.
Adding jargon to an explanation (think ‘inflation’, ‘interest rates’, ‘fiscal year’) can exacerbate children’s worries, as terms like these become an additional layer to comprehend.
Though we know the issue runs much deeper and affects people in many different and difficult ways, for the sake of a child’s perspective, try something like:
Currently in the UK and elsewhere, we are experiencing what has been called a ‘cost of living crisis’. This means the cost of things that people use in their daily lives has gone up.
The amount of money it costs to heat homes has increased, too.
However, some people have not seen a change in how much money they receive.
Some people are now struggling to afford everything, and most people have noticed differences in their bills and costs.
Many websites offer additional child-friendly explanations of the cost of living crisis.
We recommend you gauge children’s existing awareness when approaching your conversations. For older children, perhaps this could be an opportunity to introduce and explain new, related vocabulary where appropriate.
Whilst you could opt for a simplified explanation like the one above, you may also choose to explain the cost of living in terms children can relate to.
In this case, you can use the cost of items children have, for example, snacks, toys, technology etc. Perhaps you could research how the cost of a chocolate bar has changed over the last 20 years.
Keeping items familiar will help children understand concepts, as they can relate the topic to their own life and belongings.
Keep it collaborative
Some children may benefit from taking part in activities linked with the cost of living. Establish light-hearted, non-threatening activities at home or school with the aim of saving energy or goods (and therefore money).
This could be turning taps off, turning lights off when leaving a room, unplugging electricals when not in use, upcycling items, using ingredients for meals before their expiry.
Activities like these will help children to think about their consumption in a challenge format. You could flip or develop this format to also discuss the impact of consumption and wastage on the environment.
Regardless of your approach, involving children, rather than shielding them from money-related issues, can help them gain an understanding of the world around them and manage worries.
What’s more, exploring the cost of living with children can be useful and empowering for them in future, when they eventually control their own finances. Partaking in money-based activities will hopefully remove taboos surrounding money in your home or school.
Reassure and understand
Whilst we can practically involve children in our navigation of the cost of living, ultimately what some children may need to hear is reassurance that this financial issue is temporary, despite how difficult it might be currently.
For children, the cost of living crisis might feel like a daunting time in which they do not have much ability to change the circumstances of themselves and/or those around them.
Something to emphasise in your discussions is the need for respect and kindness. Everyone is impacted differently by the cost of living crisis, some more than others. Use this as an opportunity to reinforce those important values of understanding, empathy, and kindness, something which the world could do with a little more of.
For additional support to educate children about money, download our free child-friendly resource here.