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Op-ed: As US job loss hits 26.4 million, it's time to talk to kids about financial reality of coronavirus crisis

Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA
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Key Points
  • On Thursday more than 26.4 million Americans have filed unemployment claims as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
  • A new survey of 1,000 teens by Junior Achievement and Citizens Bank|Citizens One shows that 69% of teens are concerned about the financial impact of COVID-19 on them and their families.
  • To help kids navigate these difficult times, it's essential to be open with them about how you are managing the financial aspects of the coronavirus in terms they can understand.
Nancy Ney | Photodisc | Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic is not only the most significant public health crisis facing the world in a century, it's also an economic one. Over a span of just five weeks, more than 26.4 million Americans have filed unemployment claims as a result of the crisis, a number that is expected to grow as the pandemic continues. This total now surpasses all of the job gains since the Great Recession, the two year financial crisis, from 2007–2009, in which 8.8 million Americans lost their jobs — that's just one-third of the total number of unemployed in the U.S. today.

A new survey of 1,000 teens by Junior Achievement and Citizens Bank|Citizens One shows that 69% of teens are concerned about the financial impact of COVID-19 on them and their families. In these circumstances, there is a tendency for parents and caregivers to avoid discussing finances with kids, as there is an inclination to shelter and protect those who depend on us.

But kids see what's happening in the news and on social media. That's why it's essential to be open and discuss with them the financial realities of the coronavirus. 

Here are some ways to start the conversation.

Approach your kids first. Just because kids aren't asking questions doesn't mean they aren't worried. Be open to discussing with your kids how you are managing the financial aspects of Covid-19 in terms they can understand but that are reassuring.

Encourage questions — and reassure them with solid answers. If you've never discussed finances with your kids in the past, chances are they aren't going to start asking questions now. Ask for their questions and, even if you don't have all of the answers, let them know you are working on solutions.

Focus on the future. If you have a high-schooler planning for college, discuss what changing finances might mean for them and come up with a plan that may include cuttings costs, such as attending school online initially, starting in community college or even delaying studies for a semester.

"Today, Junior Achievement  teamed with CNBC's Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow team, CNBC's financial wellness and education initiative in partnership with Acorns, to host "Tomorrows Are More Important Than Ever: A Virtual Town Hall for America's Teens" on the financial impact of Covid-19.

The more we understand a problem, the better equipped we are to deal with it. Let's give our kids the knowledge needed to help navigate these difficult times.

— By Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.