Jewish Journal


June 24, 2009

Plan A Party BudgetWith Your Teen (Yes, It’s Possible)


Planning a bar or bat mitzvah can be stressful enough, but add difficult economic times and it can be a downright frightening and challenging time emotionally. Let’s face it — communicating with a teenager is not easy in the first place, but add high expectations for their big day and it may be nearly impossible.

Try to create opportunities for communication, like driving in the car with them to school or their soccer game. Another way to increase communication is to do activities together without the other kids around, such as going to the golf range with your son or getting your nails done with your daughter. The set-aside-time-to-talk can feel threatening for teens, which can set up a negative communication attempt. Sometimes a natural, spur-of-the-moment style of communication might go over better.

  • Listen to what your teenager is telling you. Look them in the eye and state back what you hear, such as: “What you’re saying is that having a DJ is really important to you.” Don’t start by dismissing what they are telling you. If as parents we want our children to listen to us, we must model good listening for them.

  • Try to understand your teen’s feelings. You don’t have to agree or disagree with your teen, but make them aware you can understand why they would feel that way or want “this or that” at their bar or bat mitzvah. Do not explain away your teen’s feelings. Understanding may be the primary comfort they need.

  • Do not overreact to your teenager. Teens often say things to get a reaction, which can then turn into a power struggle rather than moving toward a compromise or greater understanding of his or her feelings. Do not say “no” so fast, but tell them you need time to consider what they have said and that you will discuss it at a later time.

  • Being positive can go a long way with a teenager. Don’t dwell on your teen’s mistakes or lack of appreciation, but focus instead on their strengths, accomplishments, interests and appropriate behavior. Appeal to their rational and understanding side.

The best way to deal with the planning of the bar or bat mitzvah celebration is to get your child involved in the budget from the beginning. This allows them to understand where certain monies need to be spent. Teaching them “hard” costs and “soft” costs of planning such an event will be a useful skill in their life.

Have your teens make a list of what is most important to them and help them understand what part of the budget can be spent on X or Y, allowing them choice throughout the process on how they want to spend certain “soft costs,” like decorations, catering or a DJ.

Opening up the financial decision-making process will help get their creative juices flowing on how to budget money. Maybe they would like to make the centerpieces and be able to reallocate the saved money toward a DJ or a charity. As parents we will need to give up some control to allow our children to gain a true appreciation of budgeting a major family event like a bar or bat mitzvah. In this way each family member learns throughout this process.

If you are like many families stretching to make ends meet, here are some great ways to communicate with your teens about money and our country’s current recession:

Talk about what you are seeing in our economy and have your teen discuss what they are seeing and experiencing in the media. Ask them how they feel about all of this and what they are worried about. Use this time to discuss your family’s own economic situation.

At a later date check in with your teen about your conversation regarding the economy and see if they have any other thoughts about it or any other worries that may have crept up since the conversation.

Don’t overwhelm them with nitty-gritty details, because they do need to have a sense of security and stability in their home life. We want our children to feel empowered to change their own spending habits and how they view money without causing anxiety that could be detrimental.

Work together as a family for your financial future. Together come up with ways that the family can save money. If the kids want a big-ticket item, have them work for it. Maybe you let them do the gardening to earn money, rather than keep the gardener. Rather than eating out and going to the movies, you might start a “family game and make your own pizza” night to encourage saving and family unity. Be a good financial role model for your children. Our kids learn messages from our actions as much as our words. They should see us plan, save and spend money in a wise manner.

As parents, the bar or bat mitzvah experience can be used to help our teens understand how important it is to be fiscally responsible and how to stretch limited resources. It can also be a time for the whole family to work together as a team for one wonderful common goal — a spiritual, fun and on-budget celebration.

Michelle Golland (drmichellegolland.com) is a relationship expert and has a private practice in Hollywood. She has appeared on Larry King Live, HLN, ABC and Fox News, and is a contributor to momlogic.com.

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