How to Talk With Kids About the Government Shutdown

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With the federal government partially sidelined and the federal debt ceiling at its limit of $16.7 trillion, things look problematic for the U.S. economy and for those kitchen-table heads of family who have to pay the bills and generate an income.

The government shutdown began Oct. 1 (as did open enrollment portion of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.) Next up: Oct. 17 is the drop-dead date for Congress to lift the government debt ceiling or face the reality of the U.S. government defaulting on paying its bills.

How should families be reacting to these political and economic headwinds?

Gregg Murset, a certified financial planner and the father of six, says parents should have a conversation with young ones, at least to dispel some myths linked to the current government economic woes.

Murset, founder of the website myjobchart.com, which helps parents organize their kids' household chores, says there is no shortage of Chicken Littles yelling that the sky is falling again.

"I have to admit, there certainly are never-ending waves of bad news crashing into each of us every day, but is the sky really falling?" he asks. "Let's examine history. The government has shut down before."

But hyperbole is trumping reality, and may be causing unnecessary anxiety with school-age kids, Murset says.

"Just the other day, the daughter of my friend came home after school in a panic because her teacher told the class that the United States was heading into another Great Depression," he says. "On top of that, her friends repeated stories about parts of the U.S. being sold to other countries to pay the country's bills."

To defuse those "crazy stories," Murset advises taking the following steps:

Talk it out. Have an open dialogue with your kids about what is happening and how the government shutdown might affect your family specifically. "If you are a government employee these events could have some immediate impact on your family," Murset says. "Explain to your kids why you aren't at work and how this may affects everyone in the household. Kids are smart and they can feel when things are different or stressful."

Don't sugarcoat it. Murset advises being 100% honest with your kids about finances. "This might facilitate a conversation about postponing or nixing altogether the trip that you had planned to Disneyland, but just be honest and make adjustments as a family," he adds. "You might even be surprised at how accepting your kids are of the 'new' plan that doesn't cost as much but still provides family time."

Be positive. We have all had bad days, weeks, months or even years, but paint a picture of hope for a better future, Murset says. It's the simple things, such as hard work, a daily regimen and responsible planning that can keep life fairly normal though things outside the home may be anything but. Make sure to get that point across to your kids, emphasizing that the shutdown is only temporary and things will be back to normal soon enough.

Take the long view, plan and educate. Use the shutdown to learn a good lesson about family savings. "Saving for a rainy day is nearly impossible for so many Americans at the moment, so create a family plan that involves more than just money," Murset says. "As a family, create a plan that encompasses home projects, education goals and future family outings. Your kids will appreciate planning for what you can plan for and including them in the discussion."

Kids just want honesty and reassurance that you have a plan. So it goes for the government shutdown. This can be a good opportunity to open the lines of communication in your family and to be better prepared next time if the shutdown effects you.

One thing's for sure: Given the political strife in Washington, D.C., there will be a next time.

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