The Money Talk: Conversations Every Parent should have with their ADHD Child

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

Did you know that adults with ADHD are 3 times as likely to suffer from significant financial stress as adults without ADHD? Research also shows that they are twice as likely to receive financial assistance from their parents at young adults, and about 50% more likely to struggle to save money and pay their bills. Managing money is challenging for everyone, but especially for someone with ADHD. So, it’s important to start discussing money with kids who have ADHD – and to start early!

Need some help getting started with “The Money Talk” with your preschool or elementary school child? I like breaking up the Money Talk into three smaller ‘mini-talks’ over the course of a few weeks. Kids with ADHD learn best through hands on activities. So I’ve also included some activities that you can use during your conversations.

  • Mini-Money Talk #1: Where Money Comes From. In your initial conversation about money, it’s important to lay a solid foundation starting with where money comes from. (Hint: It comes from working!). Talk about your job, and the jobs that other people have – make sure to include a variety of professions. Share stories about your first job, and how it felt to earn your first paycheck!
  • Mini-Money Talk #2: The Difference Between a Want and a Need. In this second conversation, let you child know that the money you earn at a job can be spent on all kinds of things. But ultimately things fall into two categories: wants and needs. Needs are things our family has to have: food for dinner, water for the shower, and electricity for the lights. But wants are “extras” – things that we don’t need to have, but it might be nice to have. And we can’t buy “wants” until we have met our “needs.” Share a personal story about something special that you wanted, but had to save up to buy so that you could pay for the things you needed first.

Wants & Needs Activity: On Post-It notes, write down the amount of money that goes toward different “needs” (housing, food, gas & electric, school, etc.). Together with your child, count out the money for each category. Then count out the amount that is left to spend on fun things – the things that you want. Ask your child how he or she thinks they should spend the money in the “want” pile. Would he or she spend it now, or save it up for something special?

  • Mini-Money Talk #3: How Credit Cards Work. Credit cards make the concept of money even harder for kids to understand. Yet, it’s the number one way that kids see us spending money – so it’s not a topic that we can ignore. I recommend explaining how credit cards work through an activity rather than a conversation.

Credit Card Activity: Have your child set up a pretend store at home, with price tags on the items. Then have your child use a credit card to “buy” some things in the store. Next, act as the credit card “bill collector” and write up a bill for the purchase. Give your child the bill, and have them count out the money (real or pretend money) to pay the bill and hand it over to you. This will help them understand how credit cards and money are connected. Next time you’re in a store, point out that you’re going to need to send the credit card company some hard earned cash for those purchases when you get home!

Once you’ve opened the door with your first mini-conversations about money, it will be much easier to keep talking about this topic with your child. You may even find your child asking questions the next time he or she sees you spending money at a store or leaving a tip at a restaurant. This curiosity is great, and will encourage you to keep the lessons coming! I’ll be following up with a post about how to use an allowance to teach kids with ADHD about money. By then you’ll have already had your money conversations and will be more than ready for this next step!



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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