The warning signs that your grown-up kids are in debt

posted by in Budgeting

are your children in debt?

Just like with adults, debt is a huge source of stress for young people

It’ll probably come as no surprise that young people and secrecy go hand in hand. Sneaking out to a house party, hiding detention slips, keeping new love interests on a ‘need to know’ basis.

Fast forward a couple of years later, and you may notice that when your child hits their late teens and early-twenties they become particularly cagey about one aspect of their life, money.

A little bit of discretion from your grown-up kids about their spending is normal – who wants to tell mum and dad what they spent down at the pub last Friday?

But young people aged 18-25, especially young men, are the least likely of any age group to seek debt help when they need it. So if your kids begin exhibiting any of the following warning signs, they may need help with debt.

1. The postman brings them a lot of mail

It used to be that your kid was lucky if they got a birthday card off Aunt Nelly, now it seems that everyone under the sun is writing to them.

There seems to be some quite angry red stamps on the envelopes, saying things like “Do Not Ignore” and “Immediate Response Needed”. What’s more, your child will rarely if ever open their mail in front of you, if at all. Debt warning risk: High

2. Their phone rings a lot but they don’t answer

Now, it could be a case of your child trying to shake off a persistent ex, but if they throw an anxious glance at the phone or don’t even acknowledge it ringing, it could be a sign of an onslaught from creditors.

Collection agencies can be abrupt on the phone and may employ some ‘bully-boy tactics’ with a young person who probably doesn’t fully know what their rights are. If a creditor has your child on speed-dial there’s little doubt that this will cause them a lot of stress that they don’t need to go through.

3. They’re borrowing a lot more money than usual

It’s common for kids to tap you up for the odd tenner every now and then, but if they come to you for large sums or ask several times a week this could also indicate an underlying debt problem.

It’s possible that your child is trying to negotiate a payment plan with a creditor, or wants a chunk of money so they can settle a debt once and for all.

4. They seem down in the dumps

It’s very common for young people to go through peaks and troughs with their emotions, and the odd off day is to be expected.

If however their bad mood doesn’t lift, or you find them being more irritable than usual, this can be symptomatic of fears and worries over debt.

5. Staying home versus stepping out

They used to be out-going, the life and soul of the party, with a dance card full of events and fun times with friends. However, lately you may have heard them fobbing their friends off when they call to arrange a time to go out, telling them they’re busy or they’re not feeling very well.

Imagine how isolating it is not being able to admit to their friends that they’re struggling. Not being able to spend that quality time with people in their age group can be destructive for young people. Debt can affect self-esteem as well as overall wellbeing.

I’ve noticed my child doing some of these things – what should I do?

First things first – don’t panic. Depending on how close you are to your child, our advice is to sit down with them and calmly tell them you’ve noticed that they haven’t been themselves lately. Reassure them that you support them no matter what, but if they’re struggling with money worries they need to let you know.

If this is the case, tell your child that help is available. Let them know that we are here to give completely free and non-judgmental advice. Most importantly, you yourself must remain non-judgmental, and remember that all of us are entitled to make mistakes. Your child is no exception.

If they’re not feeling up to speaking to us directly, then they can authorise you or someone they trust as a third party to speak to us on their behalf. Or tell them to use our completely anonymous online advice tool Debt Remedy.

Together, we can help your child get back to what’s important – building their future.

Rachel Connor has been with the charity for over 8 years, starting in Helpline before joining the MoneyAware team in 2012. Rach enjoys travelling, video games, watching anime, reading and creative writing in her spare time (currently writing a Young Adult fantasy series). She had a previous life as head writer on Cartoon Network's Ed Edd n Eddy and as a copywriter for LivingSocial. She's also written comics and graphic novels for the animated series Regular Show.

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  • Charlot

    Thanks for sharing this post. This most likely could make every parents be aware with their children involving debt cases. I think it would be best that growing up kids must understand the right way to budget their money from their own savings.

    Cha