Dear Tzippora,

My husband and I are very concerned about money these days. The recession hit us hard, and we have had to cut back significantly. We are both worried about losing our jobs, and it feels like a gray cloud of anxiety is hanging over our house. But, recently, I watched my daughter play "store" with her friend, and she put back some of her groceries because "she just couldn't afford them." It broke my heart. She is too young to be exposed to our worries. How can I prevent her from picking up on our anxiety?

Too Young to Worry About Money

Dear Too Young to Worry About Money,

Your letter touches on an essential issue of parenthood – the challenge of establishing and maintaining the boundary between a parent's world and their child's world. Ideally, this boundary should prevent children from being prematurely exposed to adult anxieties and concerns that children are not yet equipped to handle.

However, as your letter demonstrates, often it is impossible to maintain this boundary entirely, and your child may still pick up the headlines of what is going on behind the scenes. This in itself is not a cause for concern. Children frequently imitate their parents manner of speaking, without understanding the impact of their own words. They use and discard adult expressions just as they do any other prop while playing dress-up and make-believe.

If you daughter is not demonstrating any other sign of distress or anxiety during her role-play, such as having bathroom accidents, intense anger, or regressive behaviors, it is safe to assume she is merely parroting something she once heard you say.

However, it would nevertheless be appropriate to take her words as a wake-up call, and think about how to make sure that your anxieties don't become hers. A permanent cloud of anxiety is bound to affect everyone in the home. Therefore, take practical steps to help yourself lighten up and relax, even during these tight financial times.

Here are some strategies you can use.

Work on your own anxiety level. Limit the amount of time you spend worrying about money to twenty minutes a day. The rest of the time, when you find yourself worrying, you can tell yourself that it is not the right time to think about it, and you will worry about the issue during your "worry session."

Create an atmosphere of emotional abundance by focusing on what you do have. Count your blessings regularly and aloud. Let your daughter know how blessed you feel.

Vary the reasons you give you daughter about why you are choosing not to buy something. Don't always attribute the reason to expenses. Offer alternative explanations such as having the item at home already.

Reassure your daughter that you have money for whatever you truly need. Reassure yourself as well.