Talking to your kids about a job loss

Talking to your kids about a job loss

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by Outside-In® Career Transition Coach

There are a lot of challenges surrounding a job loss but one that can be more manageable than finances or the next job search is your children’s reaction. Of course the old cliche that honesty is the best policy holds true here, although your message needs to be tailored to the age of your audience.

First things first: make sure you actually talk to your children rather than thinking “they won’t understand” or “we’ll just tell them I’m on vacation.” In one way or another, no matter their age, your children will suspect that something’s up. And if you don’t discuss your new status, children will speculate and their imaginations will conjure up all sorts of possibilities.

Before you ‘sit down’ to have the conversation, be very conscious of how you feel about your job loss. Leave any negative emotions at your old desk or out in the car. At this point what’s more important is how your child feels rather than how you feel.

For toddlers, keep it very simple and brief. Parents magazine/website suggests these words:

  1. “Work doesn’t need me anymore so I’ll be home…”
  2. “My work/job is done so I won’t be going in to that office…”

With elementary school children you can offer broader explanations:

  1. “My company closed so I’m looking for a new job.”
  2. “My company is trying to save money so some of us are looking for new jobs.”

With teenagers, offer a full explanation and try to engage them in conversation. Tell them your news, why you’re not working and what your plans are. High school kids may already know friends and classmates who’s families have been affected by job loss or change. If you encourage your kids to talk, you’re in a better position to address concerns, real or imagined.

For children of all ages, be sure to offer your thoughts on how they can help. For example:

  1. “I need quiet this afternoon because I have a phone interview.”
  2. “We can still do fun things but let’s think about free activities.”
  3. “Little things like turning off lights when you leave the room can help.”

There are some key things to avoid so you don’t instill greater fear and lasting concern especially if your children aren’t really old enough to understand. Blaming others won’t help a child who is too far removed from your job to understand. Talking about the bad economy can be a bad approach because the reports of the weak economy are ongoing. These things could be overwhelming to a child.

Talking about how difficult finding a new job can be rather than your plans to get a new job presents only a negative perspective. Just think in terms of complaining about the uncontrollable circumstances is negative, while discussing your constructive steps is positive. That’s the influence you can have as a parent in developing a child in the long run: by focusing on the possibilities rather than the negatives will instill optimism in children that will carry over into adulthood.

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