Talking with my children about the Greek debt crisis

With the Greek debt crisis constantly in the news, it should not have come as a surprise when a couple of days ago my daughter asked Mum, why is Greece in the news again and why are the banks closed?

I tend to explain things to my children in a straightforward and direct manner. I prefer to have age-appropriate conversations using facts than sugar-coat the real issues. I have been brave enough to hold conversations with them about growing up, death, domestic violence, terrorism, war and other global issues. Some of them are personal (death) and have triggered lots of questions. Others (such as war and terrorism) are serious and have made us discuss and research relevant topics. But war and terrorism is not really close to home.

With close family in Greece and a six week holiday in Corfu just a few days away, I struggled to find the right words. Indirectly, the Greek crisis is relevant to them as well. It affects some of their family and their friends. It will certainly has an impact on their holiday. As they interact with the locals, they will overhear people talking about their own experience of the crisis. Some people are angry and bitter. Others suffer quietly. A few have heart breaking stories to tell. Hospitals can hardly respond to the demand for healthcare. Living in uncertainty for so long, with little prospect for a brighter future takes its toll to anyone. Inevitably, children have become well aware of the difficulties that their families face.

One thing is for sure. This time around my children are going to finally realise that Greece is in trouble.

So when asked, I felt that it was my responsibility to explain what is going on, without instilling any fear or uncertainty. Surely, a little bit of sugar-coating would not do any harm, would it?

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It turns out that explaining the Greek financial crisis to two children who have been unaware of it for so long and are raised in the UK can be quite a challenge. How could I possibly explain such a complex issue to a 7 and a 10 year old, while I am struggling to make sense of it all for myself?

So I decided that there was no point in getting into any details. The bare facts would do.

I did not discuss the referendum or how Greece got to such a mess nor about the country’s continuously failing and at times corrupt leadership. I certainly did not have to talk about attitudes, failed policies, European politics, chaotic financial networks. Nor the role of banks as an institution in modern economies or the responsibilities of every single citizen.

Greece is currently a poor country and requires help from other countries, I said. It is in the news because leaders of most of the European countries are trying to help. The thing is, that nobody knows what the best way to help Greece is. I think even the Greek leaders do not know how to help their country and the people.  Greeks are confused as they cannot agree on what needs to change to make their country stronger. Understandably, they are a bit worried right now and unfortunately there is no much money left in the banks. So they had to close and the government only allows people to withdraw up to 60 euros a day. This is about 40 pounds.

My son was relieved. Phew, 60 euros is a lot of money. I thought they were only allowed 1 or 2 euros a day.

My daughter though was more concerned. Are granny and grandpa going to be ok?

Yes, I said. They are fit and healthy and are looking forward to spending the summer holidays with you. She remained visibly concerned, but did not ask any further questions.

And so in the midst of yet another financial crisis, I felt that I had to compromise the truth to make sure that I did not cause unnecessary anxiety.

But having followed the never ending saga of this modern Greek drama for the last five years, I am beginning to think that after all my simplistic explanation may not be quite that far from the truth.

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