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Recession Parenting

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Ronda Kaysen: Last week I got a flyer for Music Together, the awesome -- and not so cheap -- music program for toddlers. Last year, I signed up for a 10-week session without batting an eye. After all, my son loved it. This time around, I threw the flyer in the trash without thinking twice.

woman cutting back on kids party

It has nothing to do with Music Together. It has to do with my pocketbook. Cutting back has become a way of life in this recession and my son gets no free passes. As it turns out, I'm not alone.

Parents are scaling back birthday parties, canceling soccer and forgoing private school as this recession deepens, the Associated Press reports. Even the Tooth Fairy is taking a hit, as kids find the loot under the pillow smaller than it was a year ago. (This year the average Tooth Fairy gift is $1.88, down from $2.09 last year.)

Across the country store owners are talking about major drops in sales. Registration for extracurricular activities is plummeting. And private schools are seeing their tuition rolls shrink. Even parents who aren't facing job losses are scaling back to pad the savings account for a rainy day.

"Parents are cutting back across the board," BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson told the AP.

A generation of parents accustomed to saying "yes" is finding a new word when it comes to the pocketbook -- "no." Experts say the best way to handle sudden changes in what kids can have is with honesty.

"Frank, open discussion is far better in getting your children's cooperation and easing your parental guilt," Susan Newman, a parenting author and researcher, told the AP. "The biggest issue is we've been a culture of 'yes' parents, giving in to every want we can afford. The downturn in the economy is really an opportunity to teach our children to deal with disappointment."

In our house, giving up Music Together hasn't been all bad. It got my husband to dust off his old guitar so we could start a home version of music class. My son is fine tuning a toddler variation of interpretive dance and I've discovered that I'm not too shabby with the triangle. If we keep at it, we might just become the Carter Family for the new Great Depression.



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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley April 16, 2009, 7:51 AM

I was honest with my son. He will be 7 next week and has been wanting his birthday party at this awesome gym but I found out how much it was and in the end we would probably spend about $4oo.oo. I just told him we can’t afford it. He said ok, then lets do it at the park and we can play baseball. He was totally fine with it.

Jenny April 16, 2009, 11:14 AM

Try bartering! It may work and it may not but you never know. I was able to get my daughter into a $3400 a year preschool (three half days a week) for nothing more than cleaning the school once a week.

I’m also able to get 26% off my groceries by volunteering at our local co op for four hours a week.

Some will turn you down but others will surprise you!

Midwest Mom April 20, 2009, 3:47 PM

I just wrote about this today, too. I think the key to managing our new reality is to be honest with our kids, without scaring them. Mine are a bit older, but I’m setting a budget for my son to plan his birthday party. There’s no time like the present to set priorities and learn about trade-offs.
- Julia at Midwest Moms


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