small change toward a rich life

Movie helps kids relate to economic woes

If tough economic times are causing you stress, you can bet your kids are picking up on the tension as well. Knowing how much to tell them about financial matters can be tricky; you don’t want to overburden and worry them, but neither do you want to leave them surprised and unprepared.

I thought the movie Kit Kittredge: An American Girl made a terrific springboard for discussion with our kids, especially the younger one. Set in the middle of the Great Depression, the movie touches on economic issues — like unemployment, foreclosure, and homelessness — in a way that kids can relate to. The point-of-view character is a spunky ten-year-old girl who learns to cope with various changes that result from financial hardship.

It’s a fun movie, and so doesn’t come off as preachy or boring; the second half is basically a caper mystery, where intrepid children discover the truth that adults can’t see and chase down the bad guys, who are more comical than actually scary. Before the silliness, though, there is a lot of grounding in the Great Depression setting. Despite some grim events — her friend’s family loses their house to foreclosure; her own father loses his business and winds up eating in the soup kitchen — the overall tone of the movie is one of stubborn cheerfulness.

I’d guess ages six to twelve will get the most out of this movie. Our younger daughter was nine, and watching it sparked discussions about things from soup kitchens to the basics of mortgages and foreclosures. Here are a few more ideas for conversations with your kids based on scenarios in Kit Kittredge:

  • Kit’s family begins to keep chickens and sell the eggs for extra income. What things might we do to generate extra cash?
  • Kit’s mother sews dresses out of feedsack calico to save money. What storebought things can we try making at home more cheaply?
  • Some of Kit’s classmates make fun of other kids for egg-selling and homemade dresses. Have you ever been teased or embarrassed about not having much money? What’s a good way to react?
  • Kit’s father has to go to another city in search of a job, while her mother rents out rooms in their large house to make ends meet. What lifestyle changes might be in store for our family? How will we adapt to these changes?

Subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

content & design © karawynn long