A youth counsellor wants better education for young people about financial constraints in the face of pressure to have the latest trend.

Riverland primary school counsellor Anna Strachan, who has been in her role since 2018, said she regularly heard from students who felt pressured to have the latest item which was all over social media. 

“If they’re looking predominantly at what the latest trends are and what the latest fads are, then those things are going to be constantly popping up in their feeds,” she said. 

Anna Strachan says parents should help their children understand other people’s situations. (Supplied: Anna Strachan)

Ms Strachan said she wanted parents to help their children to empathise with people who could not afford, or choose not to buy trendy items, such as the newest skincare products.

“I think that needs to come from the parents and teaching that empathy that you’re quite fortunate to have this item and not everybody will have one of these drink bottles and or whatever it is,” she said. 

“I think it’s important for parents to discuss current events with their children.

“Whether it’s around what we’re seeing on the news and … teaching that empathy around those things.” 

Empathetic approach 

Claire Eaton says moments of envy can present opportunities.(Supplied: Claire Eaton)

Former teacher Claire Eaton, who has since become an author and speaker at schools, said teenagers were often driven by the dopamine that came from getting the latest trendy purchase. 

She said that was rather than a rational approach that came with a fully developed frontal lobe, which did not happen until the early to mid 20s

She said that meant teenagers who saw their friends get to experience something while they did not could feel jealousy or sadness. 

But she said that situation could be an opportunity for parents to teach financial empathy. 

“Try not to attach shame to this developmental stage for a young person because they’re really learning this social construct … and they only learn through teaching, patience and experience,” she said. 

“We’ve got to have that patience to normalise the emotions that a 15-year-old might feel when they look at another 15-year-old with a thing they desperately want.

“Jealousy, envy, and even a little sadness [are normal reactions to feeling] that ‘I don’t have that and he or she does’.”

She said normalising the emotions could help to foster conversations about money. 

“Then we can step into real and honest conversations about balance between money in and money spent and the varying money coming in,” she said.

“Everybody’s family, every house is different.” 

Opportunities to learn

Claire Eaton says teenagers often learn the value of money once they start working.(Supplied: Claire Eaton)

Ms Eaton said teenagers gained a better understanding of financial empathy once they started working, but it was something that took a long time to develop, and it was important to keep having conversations.

“Financial empathy and the ability to manage money is a skill that really does not fully complete itself until well into the twenties,” she said. 

“We’re in for the long haul.”

Ms Eaton said parents struggling with their children wanting an item that was out of the budget could offer to pay a certain amount and encourage them to raise the remaining amount. 

“You’ll be surprised how creative they can become, if something’s really important to them,” she said. 

“[They gain] that skill of being able to budget, manage and get what they want through their own great hard work and determination.”

Practical learning

Anna Strachan says there are practical ways to make young people more empathetic.(ABC Riverland: Sophie Holder)

Ms Strachan said there were other hands-on ways for young people to practice empathy. 

She said teaching children things such as the value of donating goods after use could help them empathise with other people’s situations. 

“One of the young ladies that I was speaking to was saying she donates her clothes that don’t fit her anymore to charity, and that makes her feel really good about things,” she said.

“So she if doesn’t have the latest something she can still make herself feel happy by donating the stuff that she can.”

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