Dear Straight Talk: I have two daughters in college. Because of the recession, our economic situation changed drastically since they were in high school, where they enjoyed private schools, lessons, cars, trips abroad, etc. How do I get through to them the duty and joy of pulling their own weight? -- Overwhelmed father in Monterey
Brandon, 20: Many kids of relative affluence go into shock on their own. My parents completely spoiled me through middle school with "whatever-you-want" treatment. I'm happy they weaned me off or I wouldn't be where I am today.
Some parents think that once college hits, it's too late to influence their kids. Wrong. The first thing to do is insist they earn money. It's nice to help with tuition, but don't instill dependence. Direct them toward work-study, internships, or other part-time jobs that will provide spending money. They might not take the change well. I know I didn't. But it was either that or give up my "spoils." Plus, getting a regular paycheck is definitely rewarding. Keep your foot down on this.
Akasha, 18: My family was also hit hard. Even though I took AP high school classes, I worked 15 hours a week to fund all my simple needs: clothes, makeup, gas, outings. If my mother had hidden our situation, I would've felt terrible! Plus, without earning money, I wouldn't have been able to do things that make high school fun. I not only enjoyed high school, I also felt more capable than my peers and learned how to spend both money and energy wisely. Your daughters are adults. Tell them the way it is.
Taylor, 15: My parents don't want to worry me, but I find it more frustrating to be left in the dark when I know we are struggling. My mom has actually told me she doesn't want me to work. Yet I am bursting to join the workforce. It makes no sense. They expect me to pay for my own stuff (movies, outings, etc.), but at the same time I am forbidden from having an income? I think some parents have too much pride.
Lara, 21: We never had much, so I was always conditioned to pull my weight. I'm putting myself through a private college, working several jobs, driving a super old car that I bought -- oh, and no iPhone. Yet I feel empowered, happy, and successful. Seeing the money leave my bank account to pay for school makes my ambitions stronger than ever. Some friends feel sorry for me, but, honestly, I feel bad for those whose parents pay for everything (well, I do envy those with paid tuition). After college, they won't know how to function or be happy with life's simple things. It might be hard to give your daughters less, but their reward will be independence and maturity.
Dear Overwhelmed: They probably got the "sex talk." Now they need the "money talk." Quick, before they catch a case of narcissistic entitlement. Oh, they already caught that? The best cure is to pull back the curtain (see kids, no wizard). They're big girls, at least that's what you're hoping for, and you don't want them dependent upon a fantasyland male figure anyway.
Call a meeting and do a thorough family balance sheet together. Do this lovingly, matter-of-factly, and without fear-mongering. No sugarcoating or martyring allowed either -- all are terrible role-modeling. Let the numbers talk. Once the balance sheet sinks in, problem solve together. Better they offer to get part-time jobs, sacrifice luxuries, and adopt a DIY mentality, rather than you having to insist. But be prepared to insist. Be the CEO holding the company together through the storm. That'd be you. -- Lauren
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