The Washington Post

Highlights magazine survey shows kids in tune with parents’ financial worries

Worried about the economy? Worried about job security? Worried about how to make the mortgage?


That’s one of the findings of an interesting new report to be released tomorrow at the National Press Club by Highlights magazine. So interesting, I think, that this is the first of two posts I’ll write about the findings. It’s not the most comprehensive of surveys as it’s based upon the responses of about 1,000 readers of the children’s magazine who responded to the 70,000 surveys sent out this spring. (Highlights targets readers age 6 and up.) But it provides us with a glimpse of what children across the country are thinking.

Among the questions asked was what they thought their parents were most concerned about. The vast majority answered: my safety and money.

Safety was an across-the-board answer, while those 9 to 12 years old were twice as likely to report money as a worry than children ages 2 to 8 years old.

The safety answer is hardly surprising given our anxious-ridden times. (Just last week I received a note about a new GPS-based app “Nearparent” that acts as a sort of electronic leash for our kids. It’s just the latest in a crowd of paranoid parental crutches.)

Money worries, too, are not exactly shocking given the state of the economy and the real financial concerns of most American families these days.

It’s the details of many of the answers that are fascinating. They’re a bracing reminder that kids are paying attention when we rather they not. Here are a few examples of responses to the question “What do you think your parents worry about most?”:

“Me. They worry about me so much that I worry about my freedom! I’m not allowed anywhere alone! Oh, and they worry alot about money, ‘cause of the recession.”

“I think they worry about safety and losing everything we own. America is in debt.”

“Making sure we have a home and food on the table”

Hillary Bates, a Highlights spokeswoman, said the responses gave magazine staff members pause. “Kids are, quite naturally, highly attuned to what their parents are concerned about. They often pick up on more than we as parents might think they do — and I think we’ve learned here that they are very aware of the worst case scenarios that are on some parents’ minds,” she said. “Maybe more aware than we think they are or want them to be.”

Do you try to shield your kids from parental worries? How successful have you been?


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