Almost every parent out there has dreams for their children.
They want their children to have a happy life, no matter what path they take. They want their children to see success in whatever life paths they choose. They want their children to find love and perhaps also want their children to know the joys of parenthood. They want their children to not repeat the mistakes of their parents.
As with anything else in life, though, you have to distinguish whether or not these things are dreams or whether they are goals.
Are you just going to wish for these things? Or are you going to step up to the plate and do what you can to make them happen?
Much like any enormous life goal, this type of decision isn’t made once. It’s made every day.
Do you spend quality time with your children? Do you give them undivided attention each day? Do you ask them questions and seek out activities that make them stretch their minds and their bodies?
Perhaps more to the point of The Simple Dollar, are you saving money for these things?
Like it or not, some aspects of helping your child enter into a successful adulthood are expensive.
Education is expensive. College is the obvious big expense, but trade schools can be expensive, too. If you’re looking at private schooling because you live in an area with very poor public education, then you’re looking at a big additional expense.
Channeling interests can be very expensive, too. Supplies and equipment for following up on an interest can really add up. Lessons can be expensive. Camps can be expensive, too.
Exposing your children to new things in the world is also expensive. Travel can be incredibly costly with children, as can introductions to new experiences even in your own area.
It is easy to justify not doing these things by looking at your income and simply stating that those things are for families that have more income.
That’s an easy “out,” though.
I think this time of the year provides a much better solution to the problem. For gift giving this Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever your family may celebrate, don’t get your child the latest Xbox or Playstation 4. Instead, look at the money you would be dropping into whatever item they might want and find something else for them.
Take them to a national park next summer instead, and give them some things to prepare for the trip. Send them to a summer camp based on an interest they have. Get your son who’s always drumming his fingers a small drum kit and some lessons. Get your daughter who’s always looking at bugs a small insectary and some books to go along with it.
Take some of the money you might have also spent on them on other things and drop it into a 529 college savings plan for them. Take a few days off next year just to spend entirely with them, following their interest and focusing entirely on them. (Yes, that means turning off the cell phone and giving them your undivided attention.)
(Worried about a disappointed child? You might be surprised at the response to a genuine, well-considered surprise that really shows thought about them and love for them.)
Sound expensive? The next time you’re about to spend some money on something unnecessary, think about those big dreams and goals you have for your children, then take that money and put it up for one of these other expenses.
It’s up to you. Are the things you want for your children a dream? Or are they a goal?
You can start making that decision with what remains of the year.