School's almost out for the summer, which means it's report card time. But, parents, if your kids' grades are lower than usual, don't freak out and don't be disappointed—it could be a side effect of unemployment, even if you have a job.
Surprisingly, a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that in each state, when job loss goes up, test scores go down — for all students, not just for kids whose parents are unemployed.
So, parents, whether you’re employed or unemployed, facing money problems small or big, here’s my advice: Have the money talk with your kids.
Below is my go-to guide for children of all ages:
Preschool and elementary school: Keep it simple. When my son was 5, he overheard that someone had lost a job and asked, "Can we help him find it?" Children have trouble wrapping their minds around big concepts, but that doesn't mean you should hide money problems. Remember: Kids observe and absorb our every mood. Reassure your little ones that even if times are tough, they'll still have all the things they need—food, home, and their family. It’s also important to make clear that job loss is no one’s fault.
Tweens: Remember peer pressure. At this age, kids are aware of what's going on in the economy, so they'll be less surprised if the family needs to cut back or make other changes. But when you're a tween, you don't want to be different, so talk about people you all know who are in the same boat. Be up front about cuts you'll need to make—maybe you’re canceling the family trip this summer—but reassure your tween that she'll still have all the necessities.
Teens: Share the load. Teens are keenly aware of what's happening in the world around them, but they still want what they want, and they may be concerned about not being able to afford the new jeans or a car. However, unlike younger kids, teens can help the family by taking a summer job or part-time job. But keep in mind it may be tough: The part-time unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds was at 18 percent last month—double the national 9.1 percent unemployment rate. Also very important: Have a frank conversation with your teen about college cost and options, so they can adjust their expectations if necessary. And fill out the FAFSA form at fafsa.ed.gov.