Your kids might be past the “teddy bear and candy hearts” phase for Valentine’s Day gifts, but there are still meaningful ways you can show you love them when they’re late teens. Since many high schoolers are focused on MONEY, try a money-themed V-day gift:
Open a joint checking account. Your kids can’t have their own bank account until they hit 18, but a joint account is great way to build their banking knowledge. Get them a debit card and let them experiment with using plastic for purchases. Far better for them to learn how to manage the $100 they have in checking and live on that, than to let their first experience with plastic be a real credit card in college. I distinctly remember how mature and cool I felt at 16 getting my first checking account, and promptly bouncing a check within the first three months! Lesson learned.
Help them find a job. The benefits of work for teens is a complex topic, but research indicates that having steady, moderate (less than 20 hours/week) work is good for kids*. It helps to instill responsibility, improves financial and emotional readiness for college, and lets kids exercise some agency in their lives. Of course, kids are already busy with school, sports, and extracurriculars, but having a paying job is valuable for growing up. Your parental task—help guide them on a good place to work, and how work should fit in with the rest of their lives. I remember the pair of work shoes my mom bought me for my first steady job at Burger King—that’s a unique Valentine’s gift!
Have a family money “date”. Plan a family meal, maybe choose a restaurant your teen likes (“restaurant” can be a loose term if Chipotle is the choice). Then, open up about your family’s finances, and perhaps literally open a checking account statement. Many teens have no idea what it costs to run your family. Everything from housing expenses to medical bills to vacations may be opaque to them. They are old enough at this point to understand and will likely have lots of questions. You’re helping them to mature in this phase of life and may even get some good suggestions on what they think is important for the family to spend money on (invaluable when the car conversation comes up).
Chocolate. Hey, it’s still Valentine’s Day and they’re your sweet little kiddos!