February 27, 2010

Fun in a Tough Economy

Last night as we watched TV and the third commercial in a row said, "In these hard times," or "In this economy," my husband looked at me and said, "I'm so tired of hearing about the economy."

I have to agree.  I'm tired of thinking about it and worrying about it.  I'm tired of people trying to sell me something to give me the illusion of security.  I'm tired of people trying to wring my last pennies out of me, or trying to tell me where I should spend them.  I'm tired of seeing how it has affected many people that I know and love.

But at least I understand what's going on.  It makes sense to me, and I can see the broad scope of influence the tough economy has had.  And that isn't necessarily true of kids.

Kids, depending on their age, can understand a fair amount of what has happened.  You can use the hard times as life lessons as well, finding the teachable moments in your time with your kids.

But kids are really great at living in the moment.  And so, although they can see the big picture, they certainly don't want to hear about it all the time.  And if the grown-ups are getting tired of hearing about it, I guarantee you that the kids in your life have been sick of it for a while.

As usual, this is a balancing act.  Make sure your kids know that some sacrifices are being made, but don't harp on them.  For example, if your child asks to see a movie at the theater, you don't need to launch into a speech about the bad economy and the monthly budget.  A simple, "Not today," will do nicely.

If your child wants those expensive cookies, cupcakes or doughnuts you usually indulge in at the grocery store, tell them you want to try making your own, then do it!  Chances are, your kids will love getting in the kitchen with you, and you'll save some cash by making them yourself.

If you used to go out to eat on Fridays as a family, try making Friday your family picnic day.  Even in bad weather you can spread a blanket on the living room floor and eat delicious sandwiches.

The point here is to make new traditions or substitutions that feel fun on their own.  Don't constantly remind your kids, or yourself, of what you would be doing if it "weren't for the economy."  That makes today's fun seem second rate.  As long as you and your kids are having fun, who cares if your family night of Frisbee or Monopoly didn't cost a thing?

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