The best way to tell your family you lost your job.
My own layoff story
I was last laid off in early 2006.
At that time, I had 2 kids aged 3 and 2. To me they seemed too young for the layoff to have much meaning in their eyes, but I was wrong.
Before the layoff, my kids barely saw me each weekday. I would leave for work early and come home as they were getting ready for bed, or later.
After the layoff, they saw me all the time. My new job – the job search – gave me the flexibility to take the kids to school and pick them up afterward while still networking, getting interviewed, etc.
My wife and I didn't make a big deal of the change, and to be honest, we didn't really spend much time thinking about whether that was the best way to react. We just told the kids that I would working from home from now on and they took it in stride. Or “Yay!” as they put it.
Looking back recently, I was curious to hear what child experts would say.
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Be honest and patient
Russell Friedman, former Executive Director of The Grief Recovery Institute Educational Foundation, blogger for Psychology Today and co-author of 3 books including When Children Grieve, suggested:
Dr. Elizabeth R. Lombardo, Ph.D., M.S., P.T. and author of “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription to Happiness,” says:
We often assume that children will be so worried if Daddy is not working, but that is not the case. What causes them stress is parents’ reaction to Daddy’s unemployment.
Unlike parents, children are not calculating the cost of the mortgage and monthly bills, stressed that they cannot be paid. They are not tormented by fears that they may never get another job, or at least not before they lose their home. Children are much more in the here and now. So what is important to them is (1) Daddy is now home to play with me and (2) how Mommy and Daddy are feeling.
Children can be incredibly intuitive. They may not understand why parents are stressed but they can sense something is wrong if you are.
So, how do you tell your young child that their father is unemployed? Try something like “Daddy is not working right now. He will be getting another job soon. Now he is going to focus spending some time playing with you.” You can even highlight some things they might do together (read book, go to the park, play ball…)
More importantly than what you say, though, is your reaction. Try to address your stress level- what you outwardly say and do as well as how you feel inside. Again, children can sense your stress, which then can cause anxiety for them.
Have the right attitude going forward
Vicki Hoefle, 20 Year Parent Educator, Mother of 5 teens and creator of Parenting On Track™, recommends:
Involve children at their level
Heather Davis Richards, former VP of Public Affairs for financial education company Essential Knowledge, tells:
Little kids are very resilient to change. They can actually be a huge asset to the family, with their eagerness to be involved. We have seen children all over the world work to raise money for cancer victims, animal rights, and other topics that seem overwhelming. So when it comes to a layoff in the family, it’s best to get them involved at a level they can understand.
First, discuss with your spouse privately, how you both intend to deal with the situation. What budget cuts will need to be made? What changes will that mean? We planned in advance, what the job loss would mean to the family, and how we would cope with the situation. In our family, when my husband was laid off, we decided to cancel after school childcare to save money.
The two biggest questions that children have with this type of situation are, “how will this impact me?” and “should I be scared about this?”
When we discussed it with our seven-year-old, we made sure to stress that everything was going to be fine. There would be changes for awhile, and we made sure to state upfront how that might impact her. She was actually overjoyed at some of the decisions. She was thrilled to be able to ride the bus after school, for instance.
We also asked for her help. We asked for her to help us to look for ways to save money while looking for a new position. She offered to forfeit her allowance, and had many creative ways that we could have inexpensive fun on the weekends. When her birthday rolled around, she came up with the idea for a party at home to cut costs. Don’t be afraid to enlist your children’s help, it empowers them that they are a part of the solution.
Question of the article
What about you: how have you dealt with unemployment in your family? Tell us in the comments.Free Bonus
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