Family money woes a burden on the kids

Children as young as eight stressed by parents' worry about finance, new study warns

Parents who fail to manage their family's financial discussions at home could be putting their children at risk of anxiety and even long-term financial problems themselves, experts suggest, as a new report finds that children as young as eight worry about money, and 29 per cent of youngsters lend their own parents cash.

With 88 per cent of children believing their parents are concerned about money and almost 60 per cent subsequently taking on those fears themselves, parents are being urged to consider carefully how they talk to children as young as seven about family finances.

One in five children aged between eight and 15 said they think their parents worry about money "all the time", according to a study of 1,132 young people around the UK for Halifax.

Children in London (64 per cent) are the most likely to worry about money, followed by those in the East Midlands, South East and South West (all 62 per cent). Children aged eight to 15 in the West Midlands (49 per cent) and Yorkshire and Humberside (50 per cent) are the least likely to worry about money,

"Parents often don't realise how aware their children are, even young children," says Dr Thalia Eley of the Institute of Psychology at King's College, London. "And while anxiety is a complicated problem that often arises from a number of issues, family money worries could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

"Most children have worried about things by the time they are eight, and if their parents are worried about something, it will worry them. They may behave differently, becoming more withdrawn or irritable and younger children may become clingy."

"Where there are major financial concerns, parents should really avoid discussing them with their children, especially younger ones. The lines between adults and children are blurred as children grow up very quickly now Even biological factors and the age that school testing begins support this and there is a general pattern of the pressure on children being greater at younger ages.

"When it comes to money worries, it's important to protect them and remember that they are less well-equipped than adults to deal with and identify how severe those problems might be."

However, for general day to day living, say if a family needs to budget carefully or cut down on extras, these things will be obvious to a child and parents should work to discuss what strategies will be put in place to manage the circumstances rather than offer bland reassurances, she says.

"Provide children with coping strategies rather than avoiding the subject all together. Parents must clarify that these things aren't the end of the world and put them into context, giving children in particular, a realistic but not too scary an idea of the situation," Eley adds.

With almost 30 per cent of children admitting to lending their parents and 17 per cent to borrowing from friends, parents and grandparents, difficulty managing money could have a knock-on effect on children's futures.

The family home is a child's primary learning environment, so if there are no tools or strategies to manage money or to improve financial difficulty, there is the risk that those tendencies will be passed on, adds Eley. "With society facing long-term problems, there seems to be a strong case for better financial education in primary and secondary schools."

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