Green with Envy

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.

  1. 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 contentment.”
  2. 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 solution.” 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
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