Our dad blogger Danny DadVito worries about the financial pressures piling up on families and how to navigate that with his children.
As a parent, I’m constantly worried that my kids are spoiled. Get them a snack here, stop at Maccy D’s there – we got to a point during the summer holidays where leaving the house would mean they assumed it was treat time.
That’s on my wife and I (look, sometimes you can’t deal with the whinging, okay?!), but the cost of living crisis has thrown up a whole new set of problems based around this issue.
Left the light on? Not only is it annoying and thoughtless, it’s also costing us a fortune. Didn’t finish your dinner? Not only is it impolite, but that chicken was double the price it used to be.
Of course, this is hard for most children to understand. Children are selfish, in (mostly) the best possible way. They live in the moment and if it’s not about them, they’re generally not interested. And while there are episodes of Peppa, Bluey, Tracy Beaker and more dedicated to explaining about the climate crisis, the Ukraine war or whatever it might be, macroeconomic policy and socio-political chess-playing is not really on their radar (to be fair, they probably know about as much as some of dear leaders).
We try to make them understand the value of things. And of course, there are children – and families – who understand this much more acutely than others, depending on their class and income.
But as a dad, you always want your child to feel like they’re living a happy childhood. That means they feel safe and they feel comfortable and they don’t feed off the anxiety and fear you might be feeling when you see the gas bill pop through the postbox.
It’s difficult to imagine how we might do that with the rate of inflation and the stark cost of living rises in this country over the next year and possibly beyond. They may know that Putin was wrong to invade his neighbour, but can they really connect that to only showering every three days, or wearing two jumpers when you’re watching telly – for a shorter time – in the evening?
As much as we bury our heads in the sand about it, this is going to be the reality of things for a while. I once asked a child psychologist how to make sure my daughters were happy. His answer was simple – look after your happiness, model that behaviour as best you can and show them they’re loved.
When the bills are crushing and your salary is covering less and less, I want to try and remember that. That if they see that I’m upbeat, that I’m, for want of a better word content, with what I’m having to do day-in-day-out, then my kids will be too.
It’s not particularly thought-through and it’s not very profound, but just like we muddled through the lockdowns, we can try and muddle through this. Cutting yourself a break and doing the best you can with – if it’s feasible – a smile on your face.
Because, honestly, until our elected officials recognise the scale of this crisis, what else are we going to do?