The Awkward Conversation that Most Parents Avoid (and it’s Not Sex or Drugs)


It’s like a bad scene from the Wonder Years. You’ve probably heard a few of these uncomfortable sentences before:

  • “Honey, when two people love each other very much…”
  • “I developed a pretty bad addiction when I was your age…”
  • “I just want to make sure you’re being responsible…”

The beginnings of an awkward parent conversation. I shudder thinking of the day I’ll have to have one with my future child.

Most of these sit-down and unpleasant talks involve sex, drugs or other risky behavior. Personally, I never got “the talk” about drugs or becoming a woman from my parents. But I distinctly remember my 5th grade sex education class and getting my first stick of deodorant in a coming-of-age gift basket. Very helpful.

But apparently when it comes to having parent-to-child conversations about marijuana or tampons, it’s not nearly as painful as talking about the one topic most parents avoid: money.

Don’t Do Drugs vs. Don’t Do Debt

According to the T. Rowe Price Parents, Kids & Money Survey, parents find it easier to talk to their kids about smoking, drugs, and bullying than to talk about finances.

In fact, talking about investing is just as difficult for parents to talk about as puberty.

Really? Explaining how the stock market works is just as uncomfortable to discuss as your daughter getting her period?

That seems backwards.

Why Don’t You Talk About Money?

It’s shocking that talking about finances is as awkward and emotionally-charged as issues like smoking and bullying. We all have underlying reason for avoiding finances in conversation (it feels taboo, you don’t want to face your current situation, you don’t want others to feel uncomfortable, etc).

But it’s impossible to teach good money management to your kids if you don’t talk about it.

So let’s get over all of that.

The steps below may help you answer the question about why you don’t talk about money with your kids.

1. Reflect

Take a look at your financial background. Why are you hesitant to talk about money? Do you feel ashamed about your current financial situation? Was money a constant worry for you growing up, and do you want to help your kids avoid the same fate? Answering these questions may help you approach a conversation with others (and banish your financial ghosts, as well).

2. Keep the conversation objective

When you are ready to talk to your family about money, start with the soft truths. Keep your statements simple and objective by addressing questions like: Where does money come from? What’s a debit card? What do I do if I overdraft? If you’re comfortable with these facts, you can build up your conversations to include more sensitive realities, like your household income.

3. Share

Family finances are just that – the family’s. Keeping your kids in the loop helps them feel more responsible when it comes to the family’s financial future. And they’re more likely to understand and handle poor financial situations if they know how the family uses and manages money.

“We Need to Talk…”

The talk about money can be just as uncomfortable for parents as the sex talk – but it’s just as necessary.

So I’ll propose something radical: if you’re gearing up to have a big talk about the birds and the bees with your 10-year-old, try introducing some financial lessons as well:

  • “Honey, when two people love each other very much…they talk about a joint checking account.”
  • “I developed a pretty bad addiction when I was your age…to online shopping.”
  • “I just want to make sure you’re being responsible…with your credit card.”

It’s easier than you think. And it’s just another part of growing up.

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10 thoughts on “The Awkward Conversation that Most Parents Avoid (and it’s Not Sex or Drugs)

  1. Kyle

    Awesome, and so true! In my professional life I’m a substance abuse educator, but I’m also passionate about personal financing. I’ve had a lot of conversations with parents about sex, drugs, and money and they say money is easily just as hard to talk about as the others.

    Maybe some of the problem comes from parents not fully understanding certain money concepts themselves. Credit/debit cards, mortgages, and savings accounts are easy enough, but a lot of investment plans and ideas might be tough to explain for someone who doesn’t fully grasp them.

  2. Veronica @ Pelican on Money

    Thank you! My mom never spoke to me or my brother about money and I wish she would have. My brother could have avoided mountains of debt and depression and I sure wouldn’t have to struggle in the beginning as much as I did. I think every parent should have MANY conversations about money with their children at an age they can understand the topics.

  3. Elizabeth @ Simple Finance

    What a great topic – sounds like inspiration for an eBook!!! I think so many people are taught that it’s impolite to talk about money, and for some (inane) reason, we transfer that over to talking about money even with our family.

  4. Money Beagle

    My parents did a good job of teaching by example. They were responsible about money, they talked about the importance of saving, and made sure that I knew that they paid any credit card balances off right away, never paying interest. I learned these lessons and still follow them today.

  5. Tackling Our Debt

    My parents were very good with their money but they didn’t have specific conversations with us kids about money. Except that my father always encouraged me to put any money I earned or received as a gift into my savings account. I started working at 13 and by the time I went to college I was able to pay cash because of my savings account and because it was generating 22% in interest as well.


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