Man, there is a lot to think about as a parent these days.

We hear a lot about the importance of things like increasing self awareness and meeting our children’s individual needs. While I’m sifting through parenting articles, knee deep in self-reflection, sometimes I neglect the basics. You know, like, teaching my kids about money and how they can use it for survival. Oops.

Whether we want to believe it or not, money plays an important role in our lives. We literally can’t survive without it. So it’s time to drop any discomfort we may have around the topic and start to face the financial parenting music.

It’s been reported that only 22 percent of kids say they talk with their parents “frequently” about money. It’s no wonder credit card debt continues to skyrocket among youth – debt that will follow them far into the future.

By ignoring the topic of money, we are doing our children a disservice that will have far reaching effects on their relationships and quality of life down the road. Here’s some straightforward ways parents can take the ‘money bull’ by the horns and help their children start out on solid monetary ground.

Let them open their own bank account

Young children can benefit greatly from learning the ins and outs of keeping and saving money in a checking or savings account. This one threw me a little at first when thinking of our own five- and seven-year-old daughters. But as I reflected on it further, it started to make perfect sense.

Our kids are ecstatic to have money (duh), which usually leads to the following situation: a sweaty-fisted child carrying around crumpled dollar bills and germ infested coins wherever they go, followed by frustration and whining regarding said dollar bills getting “stolen” or lost. I’m now realizing responsibility for this situation falls more in the category of ‘parent fail’ as opposed to ‘unorganized offspring.’

Offering children a safe place to keep their money while they learn the important skills of saving, personal responsibility, and social skills seems like a no-brainer. Here are some practical tips on opening up a bank account for your child.

Set long-term goals together

Of course, kids would feel overwhelmed if we made them aware of every financial transaction in the family. But much can be learned from parent modeling of good financial planning. Both parent and child can set their sights on longer term spending, creating an opportunity for collaboration on a savings plan to achieve a common goal.

Children live in the present. But shifting a child’s immediate desires into achievable goals helps them develop a ‘big picture’ mindset. The principles behind saving money also teach children delayed gratification, patience, and perseverance – positive habits that will translate to the long term in many different areas.

Let them spend

Our children see us spend money all the time (or more likely, use a small plastic card in exchange for goods). This doesn’t give them the same benefits of a hands on experience with money.

Many experts advocate allowing your child to take ownership over a consistent expense, such as school lunches or clothing (for older children). This places them in a decision-making role, for better or for worse. It’s better for them to make mistakes now as opposed to later, when the stakes will be much higher. It likely won’t take long before they realize not only the value of a dollar, but also an increased appreciation for what they already have.

Use a pig

Yes you heard me correctly, and it’s actually pretty badass. This money saving pig is like a piggy bank on steroids, helping parents break down different areas of finance into saving, spending, donating, and investing.  

This instills the powerful habit of pausing and putting thought into where our money goes early on. The money saving pig makes doing these things fun, which peaks a child’s interest and increases the likelihood of follow though and long-term success with financial goals.

Teach through technology

We know about the many positive effects of using screen time to engage in pro-social games and apps, so why not use some tech time to increase financial acumen? There are fabulous tools and websites aimed at helping kids navigate financial territories.  

An awesome new app called Kidibank ™ helps parents allocate allowance and supports kids in tracking their earnings with their own emoji character. In addition, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides a great age-by-age online resource to assist parents in developing smart money skills. No matter your views on screen time, there’s no doubt kids respond to technology. So why not use it as a tool for their benefit?

“Money on its own is neither good nor bad. It is a means to an end.”

When we talk openly about money and demystify things like earning, income, saving, and investing, we give our kids the information and power to make wise financial decisions. I think we can all agree that is an investment that will pay off in dividends.