In this assembly, students are invited to consider the cost of bringing up a child in the UK, and to think about whether they personally are offering good value for the money that has been spent on them

Engagement

Leader: If you had £200,000 to spend, how would you use it?

Reader 1: I’d buy a bright red Ferrari sports car with all the added extras and drive it on my own private race track.

Reader 2: I’d have an indoor heated swimming pool built at my house so I could have a pool party every weekend.

Reader 3: With £200,000 I’d go on a year-long round-the-world cruise, taking in all the top destinations like New York, Sydney, the Greek Islands, Hong Kong and the Caribbean.

Reader 4: I’d spend £200,000 on the very best home cinema with a 3D projector and surround sound. I’d get all the new films as soon as they were released.

Reader 5: I’d have an executive suite at [name football ground] for the next 5 years, with free drinks and food for every home game.

Reflection

Leader: I wish!

The reason we’re talking about this is, according to a recent survey, every one of your parents gave up the opportunity to spend this kind of money on themselves… because they had you as their child instead.

[Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/feb/23/child-cost-inflation]

Let me explain: the survey claims that the average cost of bringing up a child from birth to the age of 21 is now over £200,000 in the UK. That’s not the children of wealthy parents or those who go to private school – it’s the average cost for any child going to public school. That amount includes feeding you, housing you, clothing you, educating you and entertaining you.

In case you don’t believe me, let’s examine the figures a little more closely. First, let’s average that figure out; that’s just below £10,000 per year. In fact, during some years you are a lot more expensive to bring up than others. Apparently it is most expensive to bring you up during your pre-school and university or college years. As a toddler you needed a lot to be spent on childcare and holiday provision, particularly when both your mum and dad were working. As a student there are the costs of accommodation and university fees. At present, during the secondary school years, we could say you’re fairly cheap to bring up.

Over those 21 years there are two main types of expenditure that represent the biggest chunk of money. The first is education-related: uniform, equipment, trips and such like. It soon mounts up. The second is childcare: nursery, after-school clubs and holiday clubs for example. Each of these accounts for about 25% of the grand total of £200,000.

Enough of the details, let’s get down to the big personal question: do you think you offer your parents and guardians good value for the money they’ve spent? After they’ve shelled out their £200,000, will they be satisfied with what they see? Do they look at you and think that it is money well spent, or do they wish they’d chosen the Ferrari, the indoor pool, the round-the-world cruise, the home cinema or the executive box instead?

Maybe value for money is not quite the right term as it’s impossible to place a financial value on a living person. Nevertheless, I’d like to suggest that there are ways in which you might enhance the lives of those loved ones who are choosing to spend such large amounts of money on you. First, try really recognising the reality of these figures. While there may be some exceptions at both ends of the spectrum, most of you are the beneficiaries of sums of money similar to those quoted. Work it out for yourself if you don’t believe the survey, but don’t leave anything out: food, heat and light, furniture, clothes, pocket money, presents, clubs, transport, holidays, trips, and that’s merely the start of the list. £200,000 is a reasonably accurate figure.

Once you agree with the truth of these figures, I suggest you move on to appreciating what the money represents. I think there are two sides of meaning to the word “appreciate” in this case.

On the one hand, the word is to do with understanding what it cost your parents or guardians, and the choices many of them made in order to spend the money on you. There will have been times when they chose not to spend money (or time or energy) on something they wanted to do for themselves, so that they could spend it on you. To check this out, ask them what they did and bought before you were part of their lives. You may be surprised at the activities they gave up when you arrived.

On the other hand, “appreciation” is about you actively showing them that you realise the choices they made. Words, gifts and acts of kindness are not just for Mothers’ Day (which is this weekend!) or Fathers’ Day. Simple, spontaneous words can mean a great deal.

Value for money is also about pay-back. As you become older you become less dependent on your parents and can, in fact, make a positive contribution to their lives. It probably won’t be financially: it’s more likely to be in terms of skills and experience you gain that can be passed on to them, such as your knowledge of mobile phones and computers (which in some cases will be superior to your parents’!). What matters, though, is that you are ready to give something back into their lives.

Even more important may be what is known as “paying it forward”. The majority of you will one day become parents yourselves. One of the most satisfying experiences for your parents will be when they see you acting towards your children with the same, or greater, generosity that they’ve given to you. That’s worth even more than the Ferrari or the world cruise.

Response

Meanwhile, think about the words of this prayer. Make it your own if you wish.

Dear GodI thank you that I’m on the receiving end of so much generosity.May this stimulate a similar generosity in me.May I show generous appreciation to those who provide for me and commit myself to provide generously for those who eventually depend on me.

Amen

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2010

About the author: Brian Radcliffe

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