How do I explain that we can’t afford to go on holiday like all their other friends? And dance classes, and expensive day trips?

mnberksAwkward Questions Children Ask Part Four

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Dr Amanda Gummer, Play & Parenting Psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children has been helping Mumsnetters with how to answer those awkward questions that children ask.

How do I explain that we can’t afford to go on holiday like all their other friends? And dance classes, and expensive day trips?

tshirt sat at tableAmanda says……

Most things in life cost money and it’s important for children to understand its value and to know that everyone has differing amounts.  This can be really difficult concept for young children who think that meals or days out are free.

Why not ask them to save some pocket money towards a day trip out, this will really help them to relate to how much things cost and make them understand that if they spend all their money on this trip they will miss out on other things such as sweets/magazines. If parents are going out to work, you can also explain that mummy and daddy work really hard to earn the money to pay for nice things and try to explain the process.

Some people have lots of money and can do whatever they like; lots of days out, holidays and dance classes. However the majority of people earn less and have to budget or pick and choose what they do as they can’t afford to do everything.

Explain to your child that having lots of money can buy you nice things but it doesn’t mean you will be happier, there are plenty of lovely things you can do that are free, such as visiting your closest beach for the day, having picnics in the park and these can be equally as special.  Try not to mention the cost of activities – a child won’t normally know the cost of a DVD and pizza night at home versus a cinema trip, they will take their lead from you.  Don’t feel pressured to supply endless treats as often a child will want to stay at home and play lego even more than going out for a day – it’s often the pressure we put on ourselves as parents that is an issue.

If there are certain things they really want to do, for example, dance classes why not get them to ask for these to be Christmas or birthday presents.

A note from the Mumsnet Berkshire Editor: Money is such a hard concept for children to understand. What’s most important is making the use of free activities where possible and also just making sure you actually have time as a family. Depending on the age of the child, most just want to have someone/their parents to play with them and to spend time with them.  Don’t forget you can use things such as Tesco Clubcard vouchers to pay for days out if you save them up. Plan things like Christmas in advance, consider second hand toys (you can get some bargain toys in great condition). When it comes to activities such as dance classes, work with your child to see how much they really want to do the activity. i.e. prove that they will stick at it and not just want to stop two classes in. You could ask them to help you for x no. of weeks with a house hold chore and if they do it regularly with no fuss they are showing they can commit and perhaps it is a worthwhile investment. Shop around for classes and don’t be afraid to ask for discount or to do pay as you go.

Read Part One: Who is lying?

Read Part Two: Why do grown ups argue?

Read Part Three: What does the tooth fairy do with the teeth they collect?


10 thoughts on “How do I explain that we can’t afford to go on holiday like all their other friends? And dance classes, and expensive day trips?

  1. Some really constructive advice here! Especially the editor’s note about free days out. Just a little research and bring up so many fantastic and often beautifully original things to do with your family that won’t even register on the radar of the fattest of wallets!

  2. Very true, I think you just have to be very open and honest with them. We are not going on holiday this Summer as my husband was unemployed for 8 months, now he’s employed it is taking us time to claw back to normal (ish). We sat our boys (aged 7 & 12) down and told them this and they have been totally fine about it. So far so good with the holidays and we have been able to do lots of stuff, for free and paid, balanced with days at home and local free stuff. When you look in your local area there is loads of free stuff to do, I think that you need to have full on days out/away from where you live, pack up the car with a picnic and drive an hour or so away for the day, then you get that feeling of being out of the ‘normal’ for a while. One of the things we do is instead of a ‘pub crawl’ we go on a ‘playground crawl’ and try and visit as many play areas as possible in one day! Sounds boring but becomes quite a laugh, with ice creams, discussions about the kids, equipment etc.

  3. I used to use measures of time so they could see how long an hour is then relate that to how many of these we needed to work to afford said item.

    Great post.

  4. My Daughter took a summer job working 8 hrs a day in a stables for £25 a day. When she equated a pair of jeans in return for working all day she stopped asking for things I couldn’t afford. It’s very easy to spend other peoples money but not you’re own.

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