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Our first question for this new monthly advice section deals with money, values, differences, and dealing with Grandparents.
My husband's wealthy family - who we see regularly - is obsessed with money. They talk often about money and judge people by how much they make. How do I minimize this money focus with my kids?
It is difficult to talk about money, even with someone who talks about money too much. Have you tried to approach your in-laws about not discussing money in front of your kids? Sometimes a direct approach works. If you have, with no results, or you can't because that's just not the nature of your relationship, an important word for you to channel is counterbalance. If your kids have high exposure to your in-laws but you want a different message in your home about money, make sure you are modelling ideals about finances that you want your children to understand.
Ron Lieber, NYTimes, Your Money financial columnist and author of The Opposite of Spoiled, says that grandparents can be a menace when it comes to money: “They believe it is their solemn duty to spoil their grandchildren and take great delight in subverting whatever rules you attempt to enforce. As the kids get older, this becomes a source of conspiratorial glee between the grandparents and the grandchildren. Trying to stop it - or enforce some sort of speech code - probably isn't possible.”
He suggests telling your children “different people live in different ways, and because your grandparents are older, they don't need to save as much anymore as we do. They should enjoy the time they spend with their them but should also understand that things are different when grandma and grandpa are not around.” This is a simple explanation and no doubt the truth. Ron says - especially in the information age - how it's important to display honesty in your talks about money.
The decisions surrounding money occur daily and present opportunities for you to have discussions in a healthy way in your home. Discuss individual values, be it yours, your kids', their grandparents, a classmate, or a homeless person; value is not dependent on earning potential. Additionally it is important to model empathy and gratitude; help them imagine what it is like to be in other people's shoes and to show gratitude for what they do have. The needs of others can be easily demonstrated by looking together in a newspaper, by sponsoring a child, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. Ron also suggests discussing how they spend and the trade-offs they're making: “What did they decide not to spend on today so they can have more for something tomorrow? How does the family make giving decisions? This helps model the connection between money and all of the values, virtues, and character traits that add up to the opposite of spoiled. Which is, of course, what we all want to accomplish with our kids."
It's important to keep in mind that our attitude about money and how we use it is witnessed by our kids. If weekends are full of shopping and reward systems for good behaviour all focus on earning cash and toys, you may be inadvertently reinforcing your in-laws perspective. However, if you demonstrate charity and love towards people of all income levels, your children will grow to understand that true self worth has little to do with wealth.
Want to read more about relationships? See Need a Fresh New Year's Resolution: Experts Share Theirs and Want to be a Better Parent? Focus Your Energy on This!
I've started a monthly column to answer the YMC reader's relationship questions. Write to me on my Facebook Page, where I regularly share relationship articles and resources or tweet me at @kellyflanniganb for relationship advice from the The Relationship Rescuer.
A study by Emory University recently showed a correlation between big weddings and a shorter marriage. In the study a $20,000+ wedding was 3.5 more times as likely to end in divorce. This was also found to be true of engagement rings, wherein the higher the price of the ring, the lower the marital success. Many of the YMC contributors agreed with having a thriftier wedding. Natalie Romero of Putting it Out There said that her and her husband are at seven years with a small destination wedding and Mummy Buzz Julie Green says a cheap registry wedding kicked off their now 15 years of marriage.
The study didn't comment on why there is this correlation, although the authors suggested financial strain and compatibility could be possibilities. I think some marriages feel the effects of the failure to compromise (now and forever!), face reality, and concentrate on priorities and what is really important in life. Other reasons cost of weddings may be a factor include:
Financial Strain: No surprise that financial strain is hard on a marriage and a bride or groom who bankrupt their families or themselves for one day will never going to be a great start to a future. Things can get out of control and sometimes parents insist on all the bells and whistles, which is incidentally a great place for the couple to start working on some boundaries! Get creative; there are great wedding hacks to learn from or invent!
Compatibility: YMC Frenzied Fashionista Ashley MacInnis states that her expensive wedding turned into an expensive divorce. The expensive wedding occurred at her ex-husband's insistence and it was not the kind of wedding she wanted to have. Katja Wulfers of Around the Table said that she and her husband had a small inexpensive wedding and the day completely reflected both of them.
Compromise: When my husband and I started talking “wedding” and initially discussed details he shared the idea of inviting friends and family over for a party and then surprising them with a wedding. Although not pushing for this exactly, he liked the idea of casual. This idea was hard on my childhood conjured wedding dreams of the white dress, walking with my dad down the aisle of a church, bridesmaids, and a lovely venue. We talked and were able to come up with a wonderful and reasonably priced wedding that my husband still raves about to this day. Choosing a bit of an odd month gave us lots of venue options and discounts. Early work in the compromise department made the wedding successful for both of us.
Reality: When our own Anne Radcliffe of Dinner: It's Not Rocket Science got married she knew that eloping was the choice for her and her husband who are now celebrating 16 years. For Anne, it was a practical choice where they could focus on themselves and not worry about difficult family dynamics. Juggling the relationship nuances in a family has no doubt caused the odd bride and groom to put down the seating arrangement pen and fly off to Vegas. Facing reality with the understanding of families, keeping on budget, lowering expectations and focusing on needs vs. wants are important translatable skills throughout marriage.
Priorities: A wedding is about committing one's life to one another, “to have and to hold, in sickness and in health.” Commitments of this magnitude should not be overlooked because the wrong shade of pink was in the floral arrangement. Reality shows featuring bridezillas are showing the effects of priorities being off. When my husband, then boyfriend and I were starting to discuss marriage we had pre-engagement counselling offered at our church as an alternative to pre-marital counselling as our pastor often found that once the wedding planning ball started rolling and it would be hard to address the important issues or the need for taking more time. For us it was good to discuss all the biggies before feeling the planning pressure.
The wedding industry is big business. The Meaning of Wife by Anne Kingston - a smart, interesting read - looks at all things expected in modern day “wifedom.” In her chapter on weddings she notes that there used to be the odd wedding magazine on the rack and now there is a plethora full of ways you should be planning. No mistaking it, we -especially women - are being marketed to and it is pervasive. The wedding becomes a big production and people are getting anxious and crumbling in the planning. A friend's friend went so off the deep end that her sadly vocalized goal was to be the most talked about wedding, remembered for years to come. News flash: no one is going to be talking about your wedding for years to come. But such a comment may be.
So get perspective and and remember that marriage is about commitment. That the two of you spend money completely differently, how to handle being raised differently in regards to your own plans for parenting, or the importance of forgiveness and how to work through disagreements should be the big discussions. Get a plan going on these types of things long before you start the great wedding battle of whether the chocolate for the cake goes on top or on the side.
Want to read more about relationships? See 30 Ways and 30 Days: How to Show Gratitude to your Partner and Relationship Rescue: Fight Stress, Not Each Other.
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