TORONTO -- It is time to have the conversation with your children -- about money.

For many families the thought of discussing money can make them uneasy and is often a taboo subject. In fact, this conversation doesn't discriminate -- wealthy, poor, young or old no one likes to open themselves up and share their financial situation, especially if it is challenging.

Money is deeply personal and can influence our lives in so many ways.

Families are finding this out first-hand as the pandemic has hit the bottom line and parents are struggling. One or both parents may find themselves laid off permanently or temporarily and while the government aid can help pay the bills and keep a roof over their head today these same parents who may have in the past been able to afford to say "yes" to their children are now finding themselves having to say "no" financially. And that is ok.

There are going to be opportunities during this pandemic that are going to force us to change and this may be one of them.

Here are a few ideas that may help.

  1. Begin a honest conversation with your children about how you are feeling and where you stand financially. They may not appreciate the numbers but I have found the more you respect their ability to grasp a situation the quicker they embrace it. Include your children in big purchases. I recall having a conversation with our children about a family vacation. With four teenagers in high school and one computer they responded,"we don't really need a vacation but we do need a second computer." The vacation didn't happen.
  2. It is ok to say no to your children even if you can afford to say yes financially. To the extent you can replicate real life the better your children will be when they embark on their own journey. We clearly don't always get want we when we want all the time and neither should they. I know this sounds a little like tough love but it is a great lesson in living below your means that will stick with them.
  3. Encourage your children to set financial goals that excite them. They absolutely will not save money for something that excites you. I learned this first-hand when when our daughter got her first part-time job and I thought great you can tuck a little money away for university. Trust me that wasn't on her agenda. Also try to resist the temptation of telling them how to spend their money. It is their money. Yes they will make mistakes but that is ok it is all part of the process.
  4. Talk about the difference between investing in your children - helping to fund their education and bailing them out when they run up a credit card bill they can't afford to pay. I'm not suggesting you don't help them out. I would however, ensure they pay you back. Owning the problem can be a game changer. Our son received a notification from CRA highlighting a tax bill he wasn't expecting. He said to me, "How did you let this happen?" My response," I didn't get you into this situation - you did." He paid the bill and has never been in that position again.
  5. These are difficult times and families are coming together. Just like your salary maybe a moratorium on allowances has to be put into place. That's ok. It can be a temporary situation. However, this doesn't mean everyone should still pitch in. It means maybe we all have to do a little more for less.

When children contribute something to the household regardless of your financial situation it can be a great accomplishment for them as well as you. Now more than ever we need to pull together.