05/07/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Use the Recession to Build Your Child's Strengths

Here's the good news: this recession will pass by and many children will forget about it by early adulthood even though right now it may hammering your family. You can use the current economic climate to prepare your children for success in times of future financial strife by introducing them at a young age to the financial power of their strengths and passions. Kids need recession endurance for the long haul. They can begin to hone their resourcefulness around what they most enjoy doing now. Here are some simple ideas that may give your child an incentive to make and save money.

It begins with a conversation. Sit down with your children and ask them to list ten things they wouldn't mind doing around the house. Break these choices down to component parts. For example, don't simply ask about cleaning the kitchen -- ask which job in the kitchen -- washing dishes, sweeping floors, cooking -- they would most prefer doing. Extend the conversation to activities outside the realm of household chores. Do they like to listen to music? Are they interested in art, animals, acting, and writing? Do they like to organize, take photos? A strength is an activity that energizes a child. Any of these strengths can easily be turned into jobs that can save or make money. Remember, it is very important to let children choose among a variety of activities because they will like doing them and be more likely to keep doing them if they had a role in the decision-making.

Once you have identified what they are energized by doing, you can next brainstorm ways to make money using the strength. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Ways to Make Money:

For the child who likes to draw: How much money do people spend on greeting cards? Your 3-5 year old may be a budding artist. You can take her drawings and make a variety of kinds of cards out of them. You can save money yourself on cards, or have your older child sell these.

For the child who is good with technology, likes music or has organizational skills:
Too many CDs taking up space and not enough time transfer them to an iPod? If your child can work an iPod, he can offer this service to others. I'd pay someone between $25-30 to put all my CDs on my iPod.

Everyone I know has boxes of photos. How about having the child who likes to organize offer to put all your photos in albums for a small fee?

I'll do my own dishes, thank you, but I'd gladly pay your "tween" girl to organize my closet once a month.

For the child who loves animals:

Babysitting is sometimes too risky for younger kids, but pet sitting is not. If you will take my pet into your home, I'd be happy to pay you. If you care to stay at my home, I'd pay more.

My dog needs to be bathed, walked, clipped. In these hard economic times, I can't afford to take my pet to the salon. I'll pay your child to care for my pup -- just not as much as the pros.

For the child with a sales bent:

Forget the lemonade, On Sunday morning sell Starbuck's coffee on the corner for half the price of the store down the street. A child with business strength will take to this. You will know if your child has business strengths if he is always trying to cut a deal with you or negotiate the terms. Have a child with strength in math crunch the numbers for the coffee sales and find the cheapest way to do it. Add an herbal tea selection, and you're in business. If you live in an apartment building, have your child offer to deliver the ready- made coffee to the door in the morning.

For the child who loves to film or photograph:

Some high school kids are real whizzes at film editing on iMac. Have them advertise they will edit family videos into a show. Better yet, advertise that you will take photos and make a wedding video for a rehearsal dinner. Most teens can scan photos and create this.

Children who like to photograph can offer to come to your home, photograph all your belongings and put the photos in an album for insurance purposes. I never have time to do things like this, but would gladly pay someone to do it for me.

For the Child who is attracted to plants and nature:
Is your child drawn to plants? They can begin a service where they care for people's plants while they are away. Do you need your garden spruced up for spring? These are services we need but many people must cut back on.

The small jobs, ideas and creative things that you and your children come up with today may actually inspire your child for a lifetime. You can help your child put their strengths to financial use. Here are some places you can help advertise your child's goods and services:

Craigslist, school's teacher's lounge, school parking lot -- fliers on windshields, or in the carpool line, grocery store bulletin board, church bulletin, and the good old fashioned sandwich board.

Ways to Save Money:

People have grown accustomed to paying for all kinds of luxury services that they are now being forced to reconsider. These simple things may earn a little extra cash in the short term, but long term they may really tap into children's strengths and steer them toward a career.

Consider the out the following and then come up with your own:

Have a child who likes to fix things? Why pay someone else? How about giving your fix-it child a crack at it? Go out and get a repair book with your child and show her how to help.

Dinner out cost too much? You can have your children prepare you a gourmet meal for a fraction of the cost of going out to eat. Did you know that the number one growing profession for boys is a chef? You can inspire the chef in your child when you watch a popular cooking show on television and then pretend your home is a restaurant and the children are the chef's. Middle school kids love to combine imagination with real world work.

Is a night out at the theater suddenly off the list? How about getting a play and acting it out with the family? Hold auditions, find costumes, and invite your friends to watch.

Sewing used to be a boring home economics class. But now kids are drawn to sewing and the fashion industry ever since shows like Project Runway became hits. You can encourage your daughter to get into sewing, make some of her own clothes and save money in the process.

If you want to save money on a housekeeper by having your children pitch in, write all the jobs down and have them choose which one they like. Have them explain why they like it. Hidden in that conversation is a strength that will lead them to the future.

The key to all this is getting kids involved in the decision-making and making it hip, cool and relevant for kids. Kids want to know what's in it for them. If you can show how a simple chore like shopping and making dinner can be turned into practicing to be a world-class chef, then you are more likely to get their attention. These are simple suggestions to get you thinking about how help your children learn ways to contribute and use their strengths to keep afloat -- in good and bad times. Do you have ideas you wish to add to this list?

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