Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

Note to readers: April is financial literacy month. In keeping with that theme, my next columns will offer practical suggestions regarding what young people can do to get into better financial shape, and the crucial role parents and employers can play. This week: how parents can encourage young adults to become financially independent -- even if they're still lending a hand.

Tough times often mean making tough decisions. This can be especially true when it comes to watching the young adults in your life struggle with economic challenges. You want to help them if you can -- after all, that's what families are for. But at the same time, you want to make sure that your helping hand doesn't somehow diminish their independence or lessen their sense of responsibility.

Growing up, I always knew my family was there for me -- not just my parents, but my grandparents, too. We had a strong tradition of one generation helping the next. At the same time, we were taught to stand on our own two feet. I think many families share this attitude. But it can be a balancing act, especially when there's money involved. The question I hear often is: How can I help my kids financially without weakening their motivation?

There is a way. You just have to be selective about the type of help you give. Rather than writing a blank check, consider directing your financial help toward things that promote your kids' growth and independence -- and reflect what you feel is important in life. From my personal perspective, three areas where financial help can have a positive impact both today and down the road are health, education and housing. My thoughts may or may not mirror your own. But in any case they may spark other ideas on ways to offer financial help -- and at the same time provide positive reinforcement.

Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

Carrie Schwab Pomerantz is a Motley Fool contributor.

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