Kids have always struggled with being jealous of their friends'
and peers' possessions, but with a rough economy and high
unemployment rate, money is tighter than ever. What's a parent to
do when your child won't stop talking about the neighbor's new Wii
or their best friend's latest shopping spree?
Therapist Tovah Means, who works at Prairie Family Therapy, with
locations in Naperville and Chicago, has met many families dealing
with this problem. Here are her suggestions for parents dealing
with a visit from the green monster.
- Appreciate what you do have. Means suggests families do
research together and compare their wealth with the wealth of
families in other parts of the world.
"I work with families who have had to scale back financially
because of the economy," she says. "I think it's really important
for the parents to really create a new belief system around what
they value. Some kids feel jealous of their friends who have bigger
and better things or who appear to be unaffected by financial
difficulties. Parents may need to reprioritize what's important and
put value on relationships and time together over stuff. Money
comes and goes, and it's about learning how to practice
- Talk to your kids-and encourage them to talk to you. Make sure
everyone in your family understands what is going on.
"With any kid, whenever a family goes through something difficult,
the important thing is to keep them in the loop," Means says.
"Don't overshare or be inappropriate, but say, 'Here's what's going
on and how we are going to handle it as a family.' Ask them to
share their thoughts and give input. Allow them to be a part of the
It's important for your children to feel they can come to you with
any questions or concerns.
"Allow open dialogue about what they are feeling; allow them to
talk to you about it," she says.
- Be a part of something bigger. Volunteer regularly at a nursing
home or homeless shelter or tutor students with older kids.
"Engage your kids in something exciting," Means says. "Decide as a
family to adopt an orphanage overseas or volunteer as a family in
the city. Engage them in something they are excited about and then
they don't feel the loss as much. If they do feel the loss, it
shifts the way they feel about it."
- Continue to have fun. While money may be tight, make sure to
still have fun together. It's easy to have a cheap family night
with the many free activities happening every week in Chicago. Take
advantage of free concerts and museum days.