Well, what extraordinary times we are living through – likely unprecedented in all of our lifetimes. It will be fascinating to see what comes of this time, how we come out of it and what aspects of life may change for good – hopefully for the better.
There is a new concept evolving – a trend called Caremongering. People are joining social media groups to offer help to the vulnerable within their communities. When fear and panic can rule people’s lives it is important to help them understand other, perhaps more positive, views and give them sources of hope.
In such times, we will likely see the good in many people come out and we can be happy and proud that there is much good in people in Canada. One can already see the tide shifting somewhat from fear and panic to how we are going to address this in our lives and how what we do may affect the lives of others.
This is a particularly important time in the life of our children. Kids’ lives have been disrupted and many are confused. Many are now anchored in households that are under stress and anxiety can be contagious. So what to do? For one thing, it is well known that to have good mental strength and to deal with stress and anxiety it is important to talk. And what better time to look for new ways to talk with our kids and consider new discussions that we can have with our kids than now?
There are so many things that could be talked about but surely a prominent topic in virtually every household these days is money. Following the overwhelming priority concern of health, the next in line for most families is money and the family’s finances. Kids are going to hear about this, and they may be quite concerned about it. To help alleviate and moderate THEIR stress, it can help to talk with them about what is going on and to help them learn about some important financial matters for their future. Rather than teaching, look to engage your kids and find opportunities to pursue questions, discussions, etc. that can help them learn. Good life-lessons can arise from such extraordinary times.
The challenge parents will face is to put things, as best they can, in a positive context. Learning is never fun when it is a downer. Learning about money at this time does not have to be so. The following are some examples of things you could talk about with your kids, topics that they can learn from, help them understand what is going on, and help them look toward a brighter time. The topics below can be presented and discussed in a positive and a for ward-looking context. So here are some suggestions.
You can talk with your kids about:
- Your job. Many people are now working from home. If that applies to you, or perhaps your partner, talk with your kids about your job: what you do for a living, how you got that job, the importance of having a job to earn income and the kinds of jobs that your kids may want to think about for their future. Most kids are not aware of all the changes that are underway in the world of work, such as jobs that let you work from home. Take this opportunity to help open their eyes to possibilities they may never have known about or considered. Explore possibilities together online.
- If your son or daughter is unsure of what they might like to do they could complete an interest inventory, such as the one found at www.123test.com/career-test and discuss the results or discuss the answers as you give them during the test
- If your son or daughter has an idea of what they would like to do, review the job on a website such as https://www.careeronestop.org/Videos/CareerVideos/career-videos.aspx
- How important it is to save for the future – and opportunities, challenges and surprises that can arise in the future. You can talk about how important it is for people to postpone, or trade off some of their current spending to be able set aside some money for times such as these – and, as they grow up, to know it is always important to be prepared for a rainy day.
- Once you have discussed the importance of saving for the future, together you could examine how to create a budget to reach a goal. Sites such as https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/make-budget.html, from the Canadian federal government can be of great assistance.
- The importance of helping others – how we are all so interdependent in our world today and how our decisions can affect others. You can talk about how those who are more fortunate can reach out and help others who are in need. You can talk about ways people can help others. You can talk about why some people are better off than others and how some people face particularly challenges or obstacles in life that can impact their well-being. Such times as these can be wonderful for nurturing a sense of compassion in our society and considering the needs of others and how we can help.
- Once you have had this discussion, show your son or daughter this editorial cartoon from The Globe and Mail and discuss it with them. Having done that, talk with them about other ways that individuals can help others, aside from simply donating money.
- The importance of thinking about the trade-offs we make in our lives – with each one of our decisions. Talk about the fact that every decision we make with our money involves a trade-off – giving up something today or in the future. You can talk about decisions you have made that involved trade-offs and the trade-offs you decided to make and why. You can talk with them about decisions they made and things they bought that involved trade-offs. Do they think those were good decisions?
- You could follow up your discussion about choices we make by playing The Barenaked Ladies song “If I had a million dollars” (the song can be found on the internet at such sites as – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8zdNe_l3M8). You could then follow this up by asking what they would do with a windfall amount of money – identifying how they would assign their money and what they would be leaving out and why.
- The various influencers that try to affect the decisions that we make in terms of spending money and borrowing money. For example, you can look at ads on TV or in newspapers, magazines, or online, and the different techniques they use to try to influence how we spend our money. You can compare ads – good ones and bad ones – and discuss whether they are effective or not.
- You could follow up your discussion by asking them to develop a list of the different sources of influence on them. That list could include such things as advertising, friends, parents, personal preferences, current situations etc. Once this list has been completed, discuss it with them, identifying the relative value of each of these when making correct financial decisions.
- The various businesses that are in your community – and the products and services that they produce that you use and that you may rely on. You can talk with them about why some people choose to set up businesses and some of the factors that will affect the success of a business. You can discuss how businesses need to sell goods and services that people want to be able to earn an income (i.e. make a profit) and, if they can’t, they may have to close.
- Activity: Using Google Earth, Street View, explore the commercial centre of your community, noting the different kinds of businesses and their locations. Talk about which businesses each of you thinks is the most interesting or noteworthy and why. Cruise the side streets, and as you notice businesses, discuss the importance of their locations—for example, a lumber store vs a restaurant.
- How businesses create jobs for others and enable others to earn an income to support themselves and their families – and that this is another way in which we are all connected in our society today. You can talk about different types of businesses and explore your child’s interest in possibly being an entrepreneur.
- Activity: Visit http://cfeespiritofadventure.com/ and select “Entrepreneur Profiles.” Browse the page to see which entrepreneurs and businesses generate the most interest. View their profile videos, and if there’s more interest, see “their advice” and watch some clips on the first topic “Common Characteristics of Entrepreneurs.”
- The types of services that governments provide in our society – for example, the schools that they go to and health care services. Other important services can be discussed too – policing, firefighting, roads and transportation, waste management, and so on. You can discuss with them why some services are provided by governments and others are provided by those who set up private businesses. You can talk with them about the ways governments are trying to help in such economic times to try and help people who have lost their jobs and who may be struggling with bills and affording things they need.
- Activity: Go to https://www.canada.ca/en/services.html to find out what kinds of services the federal government provides; to see how many different services there are, click on Departments and Agencies (https://www.canada.ca/en/services.html), and explore some of the links. To compare three levels of governmental responsibilities, click on this link: http://civix.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Federal-Provincial-and-Municipal-Responsibilities-AB.pdf
- Why we pay taxes and the kinds of taxes people pay – and how taxes provide governments with money to be able to provide the kinds of services you have discussed with them. Point out that taxes provide governments with money, or the ability to borrow money, to help in difficult times.
- Activity: If you have not done so, do the activities in the above section first, noting that our taxes pay for all of these services. Find the most recent tax return in your household and talk about it: How much tax was paid? How is the amount of income tax determined? If you live in a house that you own, find your last property tax form and talk about the amounts paid, and the way these are calculated.
- The importance of having health care for everyone – and how some things, such as health care and education, are seen as rights that should be available to all people because they are so important. You can talk about what we tend to regard as rights in our society and why they are so regarded. You can help your child learn about their rights, including their rights as consumers.
- Activity: Scan the Charter of Rights and Freedoms at this link: https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/const/page-15.html. Note that the right to health care is assumed under other rights in Section 7, under “Legal Rights.” Discover your rights and protection as a consumer at this link: https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/Oca-bc.nsf/eng/ca02965.html, click on your province or territory for more details.
- How so many people, organizations and governments are trying to work together in these times to overcome a global challenge. You can talk about the fact that, in the past, there have been wars, battles, conflicts and challenges but seldom on a global scale when everyone in the world faced the same challenge. You can talk about all that is being done to address the challenge and that this may come to be seen as the time in which the world really came together to fight for a common cause. Maybe, just maybe, this will set the stage for the world acting globally to address other challenges such as climate change.
- These are good discussion topics in this paragraph. As a family you might also want to explore the role of technology in the global community.
- If you are keeping up to date through television, a news app, radio or some other media, discuss how the media are helping or hindering the population in their reporting of this global challenge.
- Do some role-playing where you interview each other about a global challenge and how you think the global community can come together to solve it.
- The important lessons being learned from these current times – and how the world can be better prepared for the future because of them. Talk with them about the importance of learning from mistakes and stress that things can be made better in the future so long as we learn from the mistakes we make.
- Research together an inventor, entrepreneur or scientist. Identify how they learned from their own mistakes or the mistakes of others.
- At dinner have each member of the family identify a small mistake they made and what they learned from it.
- Move on to a bigger mistake (one that had more dire consequences) and what they learned from it.
- Discuss how making mistakes helps you learn and become a better person.
- Dealing with stress and anxiety. A somewhat more challenging topic to discuss, but an important one for both kids and parents alike. Research has shown a strong correlation between financial health and mental health, and that prolonged periods of stress and anxiety can take a toll on people’s mental health and well-being. In such times as these it is important for you to find ways to contend with stress, alleviate stress, and find opportunities, as you can, for humour, joy, compassion, affection, and emotional outlets that help you deal with the stress of the times. And, in doing so, you can help avoid the transmission of stress to your kids. But recognize that they are likely experiencing their own stress in addition to what they might be picking up in the home. Talk with them about that. Give them outlets to experience the other emotions that can help balance, and hopefully outweigh, the stress of such times.
- Nature is an excellent healer. Brainstorm a list of things you would find in nature. Keeping social distance, go for a walk and hunt for the things on your list. Take a photo with your phone. When you get home review the photos and talk about these items and what they mean to you.
- Go for a family bike ride and burn off some energy while enjoying the fresh air and gaining some vitamin D.
- Live-stream some nature experiences like the Northern lights from Churchill, Manitoba; virtually visit the Toronto Zoo and learn about the animals’ natural habitat; or virtually visit a national park and begin to plan a family visit there for when this is over.
- Visit a virtual museum together and learn about the exhibits.
- The things in life that are most important – family, health, friends. Such challenging times can lead to opportunities to reflect on life and those things that are, indeed, most important. Talk about the importance of keeping a positive attitude and recognizing that every problem is an opportunity. Since we currently have one big problem on our hands, the challenge is then to look for the opportunities that will arise. Taking such an attitude can give us hope that the challenges we face can be matched by the opportunities we will find and the good things that can come out of such times for our future.
- Have a virtual meal with family using Facetime, Zoom or some other collaborative software. Share recipes so everyone has the same meal. Each member of the family contributes to the dinner by making an item to eat and selecting a question or topic to discuss.
- Brainstorm ideas that grew from adversity. What ideas or opportunities might present themselves from this current chaos?
So we encourage you to look for opportunities in this time of crisis – look for avenues of hope and positive things that can be done. And one of those positive things can be to help your kids contend with these times while, at the same time, helping them to better prepare for their future. Let us hope that, bad as things appear to be, much good can come from this experience. Believing that, in and of itself, will help us find our way to a brighter future.
By Gary Rabbior,
President, Canadian Foundation for
March 19, 2020