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Dodging Sex and Money Conversations With a 6-Yr. Old

Ever wondered when to have sex and money conversations with your kids? My suggestion…take it slow and only share when they are ready. You have to be alert and on guard for these moments or you could make a mistake, like I almost did the other day when this happened to me…

The chore of walking our dog is a daily ritual. As I lasso him up for another stroll my six-year old son asks to join us. Sensing this would be a great bonding experience I say, “Sure buddy, come on” and we head off into the subdivision.

spidermanThe first few minutes are filled with the usual blathering that can only come from a six year old. I’m not even really paying attention given his topics have no connection to reality. I mean really…what’s the point of responding in depth to questions like “Can Spiderman shoot his webs underwater?” or “What if animals controlled people?”

Oh boy (cue eye roll). This is going to be long walk. Think I’ll keep the responses simple. “I don’t know, bud.” “Oh yeah…that would be crazy.”

Then, in the midst of the mundane, comes THAT topic every parent knows they will have to address but is never quite ready for. And it started like this…

“I wish I had a little brother.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because they are cute when they are young.”

Now a smart parent would have stopped right there. Leave that statement hanging in the air with no place to go. But I’m losing focus because I’m starting to have an intelligent conversation with my six year old son. How often does that happen?

Wanting to continue yet not invigorate his hopes of a younger sibling, I bring a dose of reality to his little request by saying…

“Well bud, I’m afraid to say you are not getting a younger brother.”

“Why?”

Oh crap. You know that moment when you’ve unintentionally opened the floodgates to a place you don’t want to go? How could I have not anticipated the “Why” question? Stupid parent! Do I really want to discuss THAT?

“Because mommy and daddy aren’t going to have any more kids.”

(In the back of my mind I know this statement isn’t going to satisfy him.)

“Why not?” he says.

(Told ya. Maybe I can just restate what I previously said and throw him off.)

“Because we just decided not to have any more?”

“Well, how did you do that?” he continues to probe.

I’m now faced with that dreaded parent dilemma…when and what to tell a child about THAT. But he’s only six.

He doesn’t know yet what all his body parts can be used for. (We are still calling IT a po-po for crying out loud.)

He doesn’t know yet “it takes two baby, to make a dream come true.” (Uh, can we mute the Cialis commercial please!)

He doesn’t know there are certain procedures either a man or woman can take or have to keep THAT from leading to a baby.

Should I really open this can of worms at six? Is he ready? What damage might I cause if I tell him more than what his little mind can process?

Feeling stuck and unprepared for this discussion, I did what any sane coach would do when backed up against the end zone on 4th down and 30 to go…I punted.

“We just did bud…so now about Spiderman…”

There Is a Time For Everything

In general, I play things close to the vest when it comes to divulging certain details of my life. It doesn’t feel right to disclose my thoughts or plans to others before I’m ready, or for that matter, before they are ready. Certain things are best kept quiet until just the right time.

money conversationsYet I know others don’t share this philosophy. They believe in sharing everything and all things with everyone, including THAT topic with their lower elementary age kids. I’ve heard kids spew forth terminology and information about THAT which would make an anatomy teacher’s head spin. Where do they get that at six? Only three sources I can think of – TV, friends or parents.

I believe that’s unhealthy. A six year old doesn’t need to know the explicit details of how human bodies interact with one another to allow a baby to come into the world. There will be a time and a place for them to learn that “A” into “B” creates “C”. When their minds and bodies have matured they will be ready. Our 13-year old daughter knows.

But even she won’t fully understand until…well, you know.

The same principle should be followed when it comes to having money conversations. Kids don’t need to know all the intimate details about a parent’s financial status at six. Here’s why.

Money Conversations and Sharing Details With Kids

Kids know at six that money has value. They’ve seen it buy stuff. What they don’t grasp is the “how much” concept.

Have you asked a kindergartener recently how much $100 will buy? They probably say something like a house or a brand new sports car. They haven’t come to understand how far money will go when purchasing items.

So having money conversations with a six year old where they are told that you have $250,000 in your 401(k) for retirement would be like my wife trying to explain to me the complications of the IRS tax code. I’m just going to glaze over after awhile because it doesn’t compute (Sorry honey…it’s true). I’ll say, “Wow…that’s crazy” but not really get it at all.

A second issue centers on their ability to control their speech. Kids say the darnedest things, do they not? How often have you said something to them in private only to have that slip from their lips in public when you weren’t expecting it?

“Daddy says my teacher doesn’t know what she’s talking about” (proudly announced by said child in a conference with the principal).

Doh!

“Shhh, don’t say that!” (as you profusely apologize or backtrack by claiming you didn’t mean it that way).

So there may be some issues about your financial life that you don’t want to be made public. Would you really want everyone in your circle of friends or say at church knowing you are a multi-millionaire? That could create problems in how some people relate to you or what they expect from you. Your kid will gladly volunteer that information because the filter on his or her lips hasn’t quite fully developed. Better save those money conversations for later.

Finally, there is the issue of attitude. I don’t want to raise kids who feel entitled based on my wealth. They will have to earn their own way with a hard work ethic and discipline. If that’s my desire, then I could scuttle my own ship by sharing too many details at an early age. They may come to rely on the bank of mom and dad for everything, especially if I follow through on that by giving them all their heart desires.

A Timeline for Sharing Money Specifics

So what money conversations can you have with kids and at what ages are certain details appropriate?

Above all, young kids need to feel loved. Implied in that love is them feeling secure. So whether a person is working to get out of a mountain of debt or already has enough money saved for college education, young kids have to feel their needs will be met. As parents, we need to communicate confidence in our financial situation, even if it’s a dire one. Let them know that, even if it’s going to be a struggle, they will be OK.

I don’t think that’s being two-faced. It’s shielding them from adult stress and money pressures they have no ability at six to help solve.

When our kids turned six we started teaching the most basic money concepts they need to know at this age – giving, saving and spending. The money conversations we had with our kids at this time were about giving to our church every month – but we didn’t tell them how much. They knew we were putting money into savings but didn’t know how much. And they knew we had a budget but they weren’t allowed to sit in our monthly spending plan meetings to see how much was going towards food, clothing or bills.

But they did learn the basic principles and starting doing each one of those things with the commissions they earned for doing work around the house. That was a financial victory at age six.

By the teen years kids have figured out if they live in a “poor” family, a “rich” one or somewhere in between. They figure this out intuitively based on observation and comparison.

More importantly, they are growing into a stage where openness should be a priority. Openness helps create trust and what parent doesn’t long for that from their teens? So at this point I’d expand the money conversations and begin to peel back the layers of the onion to shed a bit more light on financial details.

I’d do this mostly in relation to what their most pressing needs are going to be in the next ten years – budgeting their own money and paying for college. By 13 most kids are mature enough to sit in on a budget meeting and begin to see how that works. In turn, they will learn how much money mom and dad make in a year and where that money goes.

They also should be brought into the “paying for college” money conversation. I’d say by 15 kids need to hear how much mom and dad have already saved for college, where the rest of the money is going to come from and what their responsibilities will be, if any, in regards to paying for it. This time frame coincides nicely with their entrance into high school where grades and SAT scores begin to matter towards scholarships.

Depending on the maturity of the child, I’d also consider sharing with them at some point in the mid-teen years if they are to receive any type of money when they turn 18. Many grandparents set up funds for their kids to be given to them at this age. Preparing them for that event and the responsibility that comes with it should be a priority for parents.

But I still wouldn’t reveal yet how much I’d saved for my own retirement or what my net worth is. Those issues are better left for adulthood.

I’d consider sharing the final specific details post-college, as I’d want to start the process of communicating my estate planning and wealth transfer goals.

Plus, by that age I’d have a sense of their financial maturity and ability to handle such information. Believe it or not many in their 20s might check out on their work ethic if they knew mom and dad were worth millions and were leaving it all to them.

Keep It Close to the Vest

What you do will of course be up to you. I realize we all have our own scenario that makes having money conversations different. And much of this does have to do with the maturity of the child, how you’ve raised them and what they are capable of bearing.

I’d just assume peel the onion back a little at a time when it comes to sharing the intimate details of my finances with my children. I’m not willing for my young kids to stand over my shoulder and watch as I update my net worth in Quicken. Just like THAT, there will be a time and a place for having those money conversations, but it’s not at six.

Questions: At what age did your parents start having money conversations withyou? What specific details did you know about your parent’s financial situation as a child? Did that knowledge affect your attitude about money or your work ethic in any way? When do you think it’s appropriate to discuss net worth with a child? Has your child ever said something about money or sex in public you were embarrassed about?

Spiderman at D. Tubau at Flickr Creative Commons

Father/son image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Next Post: This Is the Difference Between a Smart and Dumb Investor

Prior Post: On Being Embarrassed By But Secretly Admiring Street Preachers

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Comments

  1. ThriftyHamster says:

    Where?

    You forgot one of the biggest sources of information in the modern age, the internet. I would not be surprised at all to find kids allowed on the internet at age six and unmonitored.

  2. I agree that you have to open with your kids and how much you divulge depends on their age and level of maturity. We don’t talk specific numbers yet on how much we earn etc, but the girls do know that we create buckets of money for things. This year I did share with Lauren (she turned 11 in November) how much we give to charitable organizations annually. She’s getting to the age where I am comfortable giving her more specific information. But as you said, really young kids don’t really comprehend the difference between $100 to $1000 or what it can buy. What matters is that kids know that they can come to you with money (or sex) questions and you won’t hush them but give them the best age-appropriate answer, even if it’s deciding to instead talk about Spiderman. 🙂
    Shannon recently posted…Tax Series Part 3: Retirement Plans and TaxesMy Profile

    • “…won’t hush them but give them the best age-appropriate answer…” Yes…that’s the ticket. Blowing off a child’s question completely is the worst thing to do. They have to get some response that’s age appropriate from us even if that means sometimes saying, “That’s just how God planned it.”

  3. I totally believe in being honest and open, but on an age appropriate level. You are right that little kids don’t have appropriate filters, like when my daughter told the librarian she had to check out a cook book because her Mom had no knowledge of cooking. What I think she meant was that Mom doesn’t love to cook, but it sounded like I didn’t feed her!
    Kim recently posted…Get Kids Excited About InvestingMy Profile

  4. Bwahaha, I love that awkward conversation! I can’t imagine dodging a six-year-old’s questions is an easy task.

    Like you, I think we give kids way too much information. I mean, don’t make them ashamed of their bodies, but do they really need to know where babies come from at 5? At least, assuming an actual pregnancy doesn’t spark the conversation.

    I think it’s great that you’re starting at age 6 with some basic money skills. I think that’s just about the right age. My mom was pretty frugal, so I kind of absorbed that mindset.

    Even at age seven or eight, I would look at price tags of things. I guess I must have understood that things cost concrete amounts of money. It probably helped some that Mom took me on walks to pick up cans. We’d take those and the newspapers to the recycling center, and I’d get to keep any money we got. Three to five bucks is really exciting to a young kid.
    Abigail recently posted…How a few clicks got me $298 in 30 daysMy Profile

    • And it’s equally hard nowadays for them to not get the knowledge from alternative sources. Controlling the flow of information is one of the toughest things a parent has to do in our media rich culture.

  5. I didn’t know anything about my parents finances when I was growing up and I think it led to a lot of money issues I had in my early 20s. As a result, I have been talking to my son about money since he was 5, but we definitely have age appropriate conversations. He just turned 9 and we opened an investment account for him and I like that he is engaged and interested and I attribute that to the 4 years of foundation we have built.
    Shannon recently posted…Music Mondays – Accidentally In LoveMy Profile

    • [on not knowing about parent’s finances] “… it led to a lot of money issues I had in my early 20s.” I’ve seen that a lot Shannon and it’s too bad so many struggle because of that. Balance is really key in my mind…Share bits and pieces as they reach certain age and maturity milestones. And 9 is plenty old enough for kids to learn the basics of investing.

  6. Tons of good stuff in here Brian. My wife and I have always been very open with our kids about money. NOT necessarily with how much we have or earn, but rather putting things in perspective for how they cost – like how much a house or car is. I think however this may have warped our kids into thinking we are millionaires (when in fact we really are not). My daughter was mad one day because she found some $750K ish house on Zillow for sale and couldn’t figure out why we wouldn’t agree to buy it. Ahh, kids ….
    MyMoneyDesign recently posted…Niche Website Income Report 27 – $1,281 for February 2015My Profile

    • That’s a great story MMD! And I like the way you look at things from a cost basis. Because as a percentage of your worth it really does matter how much things cost. It would not be wise for a one millionaire to buy a 750k house…it’s 3/4 of his net worth.

  7. I’m not a parent so it’s hard to weigh in, but I think that’s got to be a challenge in knowing when certain topics are appropriate. It’s funny though little kids seem more open to discussing frank truths then when they do when they are teenagers and start to become self-conscious and embarrassed. I remember being in elementary school and hears some words on the playground and went home and asked my mom what it was. I’ll just say it was a very grown up (sexually related) word. I don’t remember her response but I felt no embarrassment whatsoever. But looking back at what I asked and I turn red. lol!
    Tonya recently posted…February Review/March GoalsMy Profile

    • “…went home and asked my mom what it was.” Haha…at least you took it home first. In first grade, I got in trouble for participating in a one-line tune with my friends that was nothing but a swear word. We sang it multiple times one day when we had a substitute. Needless to say my parents weren’t too pleased when they found out about my “mother-of-all-swear-words” tune. But I had no clue. Needless to say I didn’t go to that same school the next year.
      Brian recently posted…Dodging Sex and Money Conversations With a 6-Yr. OldMy Profile

  8. LOL, oh, the joys of parenting. 🙂 I knew very little about my parents’ money situations, except that they were always struggling. We are open with our kids about money, to the point in which they are mature enough to handle. Next year, when our oldest enters 10th grade, she’s going to get the wide-open look at our finances when we have her manage the family budget (with supervision) as a part of her homeschooling curriculum.
    Laurie recently posted…How One Man Learned That Less Can Mean More in the Business WorldMy Profile

  9. Ha ha, I love reading about the experience with your son (and your inner monologue) as I’ve had VERY similar conversations with our kiddos. That said, I could not agree more with your statement on kids not grasping the “how much” concept. I found myself explaining to our 5 year old the other day how much something had cost us to get done and sitting there realizing on a number of levels I could’ve been speaking in German because it didn’t mean anything to him. There are a number of things that go into this, and to a certain extent, depends on the development of the child, but our focus tends to be more on the basic ideals/fundamentals and growing from there as they get older and can have a better grasp of advanced things.
    John recently posted…Socially Responsible Investing: What Do You Consider Off Limits?My Profile

    • “…not grasping the “how much” concept.” They really don’t. That thought in the post came because the same 6-yr. old son recently ask me how much our house cost. I said, “What do you think it cost?” He said, “Oh, maybe $100.”

  10. My five-year-old recently told me that she would have a baby for us if I didn’t want to. Apparently her reasoning is that she’s a girl too, and can obviously have babies! I just shake my head and laugh because it’s too early to explain much to her.
    Holly recently posted…Confession: I Have No Idea When We’ll Be Able to RetireMy Profile

    • LOL…that’s hilarious Holly. They say so much innocent stuff it’s hard not to laugh, even on the stuff that’s embarrassing.

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