Education Speaker Series: How to talk to kids about money and giving
By Lou Fancher
Appearing March 28 in the Piedmont Education Foundation Speaker Series, Rebecca Trobe, Psy.D, is a consultant, advisor, executive level coach and an expert in leading organizations and families through the why, what, how, and wherefores of philanthropy. With a presentation focused on the conversations parents can initiate to create a sustainable culture of family giving, the program is designed to help adults talk to kids about money, leadership, and core values.
In an email interview one week prior to the event, Trobe addressed questions about the dynamics of conversations about philanthropy that are current and reliable, but also adapt to the culture of each nuclear family.
“Today we have an overwhelming amount of access to information on a 24/7 basis. There are always pros and cons to having that much information coming across our ‘dashboards’ and into our lives every minute of every day. I think more and more people are realizing that having conversations with your kids, starting from a very young age, is very important and empowering. The big challenge for parents is becoming aware of and perhaps needing to transcend any negative or limiting messages they received about money from their families of origin and other influential figures and communities in their lives when they were kids. If no one talked to us about money when we were little, which remains quite common, or instead someone important to us told us it was impolite or rude or inappropriate to talk about money in open conversation and we believed them and followed those guidelines into our adult lives, it is not so simple to shift mindset and behavior.”
Giving everyone permission to speak about money and frequent practice paves the way to clearer and more comfortable conversations. Because most kids today have phones and use mobile or electronic devices to pay for items they buy, the absence of handling physical currency such as checks or cash or interacting with a banker or store clerk can make money seem abstract to children. “If money is more of an idea now rather than something we hold in our hands, in many ways it is an opportune moment to talk to our kids about how our relationship with money has changed over time and to talk about the ideas and values that are connected to this currency that is central to our lives, and is shapeshifting, right in front of us.”
According to Trobe, the most common reasons parents avoid talking about generational wealth building or philanthropic giving are basic avoidance, not having enough time, concerns that they won’t deliver the information well or will expose children to overwhelming, large numbers. Some parents don’t believe it’s a good idea to speak directly about money with their kids and may find it easier to have a purposeful conversation about giving. “That’s a values-based conversation that involves altruism and it tends to be less laden. It is also a great natural segue into (broader) conversations about money. If we follow the thread about what it takes to be both philanthropic and financially responsible, then of course, we must consider how money functions in our lives and how we make decisions about it. Being proactive and intentionally connecting money and giving is a nice combination because the philanthropic angle invites a deeper element.”
Because children are great observers and often model their behavior and practices around the choices and actions they see their parents and other adults making every day, there is room for misinterpretation if actual dialogue is not a part of the learning equation. Trobe asked, “How can they see and understand what drives our choices, our behavior, unless we share it?” For that reason, she said even if we are co-parenting but not living full-time with our children, an essential first step is setting aside time for not only individual reflection but joint understanding and alignment around what you and your parenting partner decide to share with your kids about money, giving and values.
“If our kids are the ‘beneficiaries’ of a well-crafted, thoughtful, aligned conversation it will help shape their learning and development around how to approach an intentional and collaborative process. This is the beginning of their own financial and philanthropic identity. Given that talking about money in our family systems is still on the margins of being a cultural norm, it is even more important that we model how to prioritize it and do it well in order for them to realize it is possible.”