The other day I was visiting my 93-year-old friend who loves to reminisce about her youth. My DF said she didn't realize how poor her family was until she was in about third grade. That's when some classmates started teasing about her threadbare, hand-me-down dresses. A lot of folks were poor back then, but it seems that with a large family, they were very poor. Her simple lunches consisted of rice with a few vegetables and sometimes a hard-cooked egg and a piece of fruit, taken to school in a little tin pail... an actual pail, not an insulated lunchbox.
Her mother prepared nutritious but economical meals that my DF loves to this day. Of course, now she knows the ingredients were more affordable for her family back then: rice, beans, oatmeal, potatoes, fruits and vegetables grown in the backyard garden, and bread baked at home. They ate a lot of soups, stews, and casseroles. Meat was a luxury and they ate very little of it.
My DF shared that her parents taught her to take care of her belongings and appreciate what she had, not covet what others had. And, in the midst of the Great Depression, they had very little. In the evenings, her parents read to their children, played cards, or the family listened to the radio. They seemed to focus on spending time together and enjoying being together as a family. All the kids had chores and if the older ones worked, they contributed most of their earnings to the family coffers.
I admire that my DF's parents raised their children to feel happy and positive about their lives, even though they were poor. While it's good parenting to educate children about money, it should not be done in a way that makes them anxious about "being poor." After all, a child is powerless to impact the family's finances. Kids thrive when they feel loved and safe, and it does not cost to provide these things. My DF is a prime example... not only did she thrive, she is a resilient and remarkable lady.