Saturday, November 6, 2010

Don't Change That Dial!

There you are, driving to pick up the kids from school, soccer or kung-fu class, listening to the news or your favorite talk host on the car radio. While the kids buckle up, you may be in the habit or switching to a music station you can both tolerate or hitting the off button. Instead, why not turn up the volume a bit?

Let the kids catch a few minutes of whatever issue or problem is being discussed. You even may want to set the dial to a program about money or consumer issues--with syndicated hosts such as Clark Howard, Bob Brinker, Dave Ramsey or Joan Hamburg--that might be on at that time.

It's an opportunity to spark an interesting conversation with your kids. Start out asking a younger child:

• What do you think the announcer is talking about?
• Do you have any questions about that?
• What do you think about this issue?
• What are some reasons that someone might believe the opposite point of view?
• What family members or family friends do you think are most affected by this?

Of course you can do the same thing at home, with the television news, radio or internet. Or watch one of the many cable programs that focus on wealthy kids, such as "Cribs," "My Super Sweet-Sixteen," or any other show involving parents and teens.

• What unintended messages about their financial values are the parents sending their kids by how they dress, what they say, their expressions and gestures?
• Which characters seem the most spoiled and why?
• When have us (parent or child) acted or thought in a similar way?
• How have we dealt with similar situations in our lives?
• How does money seem to make the characters' lives and relationships more difficult or complicated -- instead of easier?

Money doesn't have to be an uncomfortable topic! In fact, it can be fun, and a wonderful way to engage kids -- especially when they reach the sullen teen years -- in conversation.