Money Matters

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Sue's daughter Jill left for college six weeks ago and has since burned through the budget Sue and her husband established for the entire first semester of school. When confronted by her parents, Jill said "There is NO way I spent all that!" Sue is amazed at how little her daughter knows about managing finances and regrets not teaching her to handle money before she went out on her own. Though an extreme case, I'm seeing more and more students struggling to understand the value of money and handle it responsibly.

We introduce money concepts in Kindergarten and continue to expand our students' repertoire of skills each year. Parents have such an incredible impact on how children view and handle money; it's important to practice these skills and set a tone of responsibility in dealing with money.

Start teaching your children about money now - it is a crucial step in raising self-reliant, confident young adults.

Use real moneySo many teachers and parents use play money because of its convenience. Save your change and expose your children to real coins. In working with students who struggled to master money concepts, using real coins was the best way to see progress. Children sense the importance of money just by holding it.

Set up shopIn addition to exposing students to real coins during instruction, the use of a class store has proven to be extremely helpful in teaching children the value of money. Children with special needs who are still developing abstract thinking skills benefit greatly from the experience of earning and spending in a store because the experience is so immediate. Children can earn money for chores around the house and go shopping in your "store." I stock my store with holiday-themed pencils, stickers, and coupons for bonus game time. The concept of earning money for work increases motivation and is a real-world application of money skills that children will carry into adulthood.

Put away the plasticDebit cards and credit cards are meant to make our lives easier but they only cause confusion for children and teens. Young children think in black and white and using plastic will create a grey area concerning the value of money. Start by taking cash for quick trips to the store. Have your child retrieve an item and hand the cashier the money. Involve them in the process of shopping to show that once you pay for an item, your money is gone. Remember that young children are concrete thinkers and benefit from seeing the actual exchange.

Get an old-fashioned piggy bankThere are tons of fancy piggy banks and coin-counting machines available. A regular old piggy bank does the trick and it requires children to sort and count coins on their own- a crucial step in building money skills. This is also your child's first exposure to a savings account which, as we all know, is one of the most important facets of banking today.

Teaching your children money skills is a fun way to get involved in their education and begin the process of raising an independent young adult. Start exposing your young children to money concepts today and avoid explaining the absence of a money tree tomorrow!

Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Follow Jennifer on Twitter: