Helping Your Family Cope With Job Loss

Reviewed Feb 12, 2018

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Summary

  • Set an example by being calm and reassuring.
  • Be clear about what happened, but don’t burden children with financial details.
  • Ask everyone for their help, but don’t stop being a parent.

How can parents going through the stress of job loss help ensure that their family is one of those that bend rather than break under the strain? The key is to do the same things that make families strong in good times: Communicate, support one another, maintain a sense of optimism, and take care of your physical and emotional needs.

Keep your head—and your temper

“How you react to economic problems is probably how your children will react,” says social psychologist and author Susan Newman. If you want calm, empathy, and a positive attitude in the family, you need to set the example.

“You don’t want to argue about finances,” Newman says. Nor should you jump on every mistake your children or your spouse make. “Don’t be extremely critical of family members,” says psychiatrist Scott Halzman, who urges parents to exercise “a sense of acceptance and a sense of thoughtfulness.”

Try to remember what it was like to be a child or a teen. “When your preteen or teen is heartbroken over something he can’t have or do right now, be sympathetic and understand his disappointment rather than lashing back,” Newman says.

An upbeat attitude may be hard to muster. But, again, you get back what you give. If you want encouragement from others, provide some for them. Optimism does not mean blindness to reality. It means accepting the facts you can’t change while controlling what you do have power over: your way of thinking.

“Your circumstances may not be your choice, but your attitude toward them can be your choice,” Halzman says. That choice may have a long-lasting effect on your children, who are watching how you deal with adversity and, whether you like it or not, are learning from you. “You don’t know how your children are going to turn out,” Newman says, “but you sure want to give them a chance to grow up thinking positively instead of negatively.”

Talk about it in an age-appropriate way

“Even preschoolers need some communication,” says clinical psychologist June Ching, a past president of the Hawaii Psychological Association. Parents may want to shield small children from the bad news, but she says “even young kids pick up on things.”

What they need is concrete information, such as “Daddy’s not working now,” or “Mommy’s not working now.” Ching says they “want to know specific things,” such as whether they are still going to be picked up at preschool. They also need reassurance, says Newman, that “no matter what, you’ll keep them safe.”

School-age children need to know more, and they will already know quite a bit without you telling them. They are aware of the news and probably know, from talking to other kids at school, that other parents are losing their jobs. They need to hear from you that they have nothing to be ashamed of,” says Ching.

Explain to them that the company where you were working no longer had the money to pay you. Older children may want to know why their mother or father was let go when other people stayed. If they can understand concepts like seniority, or the drop in demand for the type of work the parent was doing, then those points should be explained.

This is also a good time for age-appropriate conversations about money. Newman says children 10 and older can understand financial basics like the need to make mortgage payments. You don’t need to give them a dollar figure for what the family has to save (it may be too large for the young ones to grasp). It’s better to focus on things that the children can do, even in a small way, to help the family.

Hard times also give families “a unique opportunity to talk about values,” says Halzman. They are times “to sit down with your children and talk about what is important to you.” When money’s tight, the line between real needs and mere wants gets clearer. Children (and adults) can learn how to have inexpensive fun. Most of all, they can learn better to appreciate one another.

A group effort

It’s all right to ask for help, even from young children. Ask for their money-saving ideas. “Children are more willing to help than parents imagine,” says Newman. You might be surprised by their level of knowledge. Newman says a friend’s 11-year-old understood that it costs money to heat water and suggested shorter showers.

The older the child, the more details you can share and the more they may be able to do to help. But Ching warns parents not to abandon their role or force their children to grow up too fast. Teenagers “can empathize and put themselves in the parent’s shoes,” she says, but there’s a danger “that you’ll put too much responsibility on them and they have to parent the parent.” Teenagers “shouldn’t drop out of school and get a job to support the parent,” says Ching.

In fact, says Newman, a family economic crisis may give parents a rare chance to regain lost leadership: “If nothing else, it gives you a chance to say ‘no,’ and to teach children lessons, concepts, and skills they will need as they mature.”

Take care of yourself

Stressful times call for extra attention to physical well-being. “A sturdy body and mind” is part of what Halzman calls the “resiliency toolkit.” He explains: “If you’re well-nourished and you take care of your body, you will be able to withstand the emotional and physical wear and tear.”

You should exercise, eat right, and stay rested not just for your own sake but for that of your children, who need you to be steady and stable. “Parents should take inventory and manage their stress well,” says Ching, “so that they’re not walking through the house all day wearing everything on their sleeve.”

Just as you watch for signs of stress in your own behavior, watch for it in others. Withdrawing, fighting, and separation anxiety all are signs in your kids that the tension is getting to them. It’s time then to do something good for yourself and for them, like taking a walk or a bike ride together.

Resource

“Dollars and Sense: Talking to Your Children About the Economy,” The American Psychological Association

By Tom Gray
Source: Scott Halzman, MD; Susan Newman, PhD; June Ching, PhD

Summary

  • Set an example by being calm and reassuring.
  • Be clear about what happened, but don’t burden children with financial details.
  • Ask everyone for their help, but don’t stop being a parent.

How can parents going through the stress of job loss help ensure that their family is one of those that bend rather than break under the strain? The key is to do the same things that make families strong in good times: Communicate, support one another, maintain a sense of optimism, and take care of your physical and emotional needs.

Keep your head—and your temper

“How you react to economic problems is probably how your children will react,” says social psychologist and author Susan Newman. If you want calm, empathy, and a positive attitude in the family, you need to set the example.

“You don’t want to argue about finances,” Newman says. Nor should you jump on every mistake your children or your spouse make. “Don’t be extremely critical of family members,” says psychiatrist Scott Halzman, who urges parents to exercise “a sense of acceptance and a sense of thoughtfulness.”

Try to remember what it was like to be a child or a teen. “When your preteen or teen is heartbroken over something he can’t have or do right now, be sympathetic and understand his disappointment rather than lashing back,” Newman says.

An upbeat attitude may be hard to muster. But, again, you get back what you give. If you want encouragement from others, provide some for them. Optimism does not mean blindness to reality. It means accepting the facts you can’t change while controlling what you do have power over: your way of thinking.

“Your circumstances may not be your choice, but your attitude toward them can be your choice,” Halzman says. That choice may have a long-lasting effect on your children, who are watching how you deal with adversity and, whether you like it or not, are learning from you. “You don’t know how your children are going to turn out,” Newman says, “but you sure want to give them a chance to grow up thinking positively instead of negatively.”

Talk about it in an age-appropriate way

“Even preschoolers need some communication,” says clinical psychologist June Ching, a past president of the Hawaii Psychological Association. Parents may want to shield small children from the bad news, but she says “even young kids pick up on things.”

What they need is concrete information, such as “Daddy’s not working now,” or “Mommy’s not working now.” Ching says they “want to know specific things,” such as whether they are still going to be picked up at preschool. They also need reassurance, says Newman, that “no matter what, you’ll keep them safe.”

School-age children need to know more, and they will already know quite a bit without you telling them. They are aware of the news and probably know, from talking to other kids at school, that other parents are losing their jobs. They need to hear from you that they have nothing to be ashamed of,” says Ching.

Explain to them that the company where you were working no longer had the money to pay you. Older children may want to know why their mother or father was let go when other people stayed. If they can understand concepts like seniority, or the drop in demand for the type of work the parent was doing, then those points should be explained.

This is also a good time for age-appropriate conversations about money. Newman says children 10 and older can understand financial basics like the need to make mortgage payments. You don’t need to give them a dollar figure for what the family has to save (it may be too large for the young ones to grasp). It’s better to focus on things that the children can do, even in a small way, to help the family.

Hard times also give families “a unique opportunity to talk about values,” says Halzman. They are times “to sit down with your children and talk about what is important to you.” When money’s tight, the line between real needs and mere wants gets clearer. Children (and adults) can learn how to have inexpensive fun. Most of all, they can learn better to appreciate one another.

A group effort

It’s all right to ask for help, even from young children. Ask for their money-saving ideas. “Children are more willing to help than parents imagine,” says Newman. You might be surprised by their level of knowledge. Newman says a friend’s 11-year-old understood that it costs money to heat water and suggested shorter showers.

The older the child, the more details you can share and the more they may be able to do to help. But Ching warns parents not to abandon their role or force their children to grow up too fast. Teenagers “can empathize and put themselves in the parent’s shoes,” she says, but there’s a danger “that you’ll put too much responsibility on them and they have to parent the parent.” Teenagers “shouldn’t drop out of school and get a job to support the parent,” says Ching.

In fact, says Newman, a family economic crisis may give parents a rare chance to regain lost leadership: “If nothing else, it gives you a chance to say ‘no,’ and to teach children lessons, concepts, and skills they will need as they mature.”

Take care of yourself

Stressful times call for extra attention to physical well-being. “A sturdy body and mind” is part of what Halzman calls the “resiliency toolkit.” He explains: “If you’re well-nourished and you take care of your body, you will be able to withstand the emotional and physical wear and tear.”

You should exercise, eat right, and stay rested not just for your own sake but for that of your children, who need you to be steady and stable. “Parents should take inventory and manage their stress well,” says Ching, “so that they’re not walking through the house all day wearing everything on their sleeve.”

Just as you watch for signs of stress in your own behavior, watch for it in others. Withdrawing, fighting, and separation anxiety all are signs in your kids that the tension is getting to them. It’s time then to do something good for yourself and for them, like taking a walk or a bike ride together.

Resource

“Dollars and Sense: Talking to Your Children About the Economy,” The American Psychological Association

By Tom Gray
Source: Scott Halzman, MD; Susan Newman, PhD; June Ching, PhD

Summary

  • Set an example by being calm and reassuring.
  • Be clear about what happened, but don’t burden children with financial details.
  • Ask everyone for their help, but don’t stop being a parent.

How can parents going through the stress of job loss help ensure that their family is one of those that bend rather than break under the strain? The key is to do the same things that make families strong in good times: Communicate, support one another, maintain a sense of optimism, and take care of your physical and emotional needs.

Keep your head—and your temper

“How you react to economic problems is probably how your children will react,” says social psychologist and author Susan Newman. If you want calm, empathy, and a positive attitude in the family, you need to set the example.

“You don’t want to argue about finances,” Newman says. Nor should you jump on every mistake your children or your spouse make. “Don’t be extremely critical of family members,” says psychiatrist Scott Halzman, who urges parents to exercise “a sense of acceptance and a sense of thoughtfulness.”

Try to remember what it was like to be a child or a teen. “When your preteen or teen is heartbroken over something he can’t have or do right now, be sympathetic and understand his disappointment rather than lashing back,” Newman says.

An upbeat attitude may be hard to muster. But, again, you get back what you give. If you want encouragement from others, provide some for them. Optimism does not mean blindness to reality. It means accepting the facts you can’t change while controlling what you do have power over: your way of thinking.

“Your circumstances may not be your choice, but your attitude toward them can be your choice,” Halzman says. That choice may have a long-lasting effect on your children, who are watching how you deal with adversity and, whether you like it or not, are learning from you. “You don’t know how your children are going to turn out,” Newman says, “but you sure want to give them a chance to grow up thinking positively instead of negatively.”

Talk about it in an age-appropriate way

“Even preschoolers need some communication,” says clinical psychologist June Ching, a past president of the Hawaii Psychological Association. Parents may want to shield small children from the bad news, but she says “even young kids pick up on things.”

What they need is concrete information, such as “Daddy’s not working now,” or “Mommy’s not working now.” Ching says they “want to know specific things,” such as whether they are still going to be picked up at preschool. They also need reassurance, says Newman, that “no matter what, you’ll keep them safe.”

School-age children need to know more, and they will already know quite a bit without you telling them. They are aware of the news and probably know, from talking to other kids at school, that other parents are losing their jobs. They need to hear from you that they have nothing to be ashamed of,” says Ching.

Explain to them that the company where you were working no longer had the money to pay you. Older children may want to know why their mother or father was let go when other people stayed. If they can understand concepts like seniority, or the drop in demand for the type of work the parent was doing, then those points should be explained.

This is also a good time for age-appropriate conversations about money. Newman says children 10 and older can understand financial basics like the need to make mortgage payments. You don’t need to give them a dollar figure for what the family has to save (it may be too large for the young ones to grasp). It’s better to focus on things that the children can do, even in a small way, to help the family.

Hard times also give families “a unique opportunity to talk about values,” says Halzman. They are times “to sit down with your children and talk about what is important to you.” When money’s tight, the line between real needs and mere wants gets clearer. Children (and adults) can learn how to have inexpensive fun. Most of all, they can learn better to appreciate one another.

A group effort

It’s all right to ask for help, even from young children. Ask for their money-saving ideas. “Children are more willing to help than parents imagine,” says Newman. You might be surprised by their level of knowledge. Newman says a friend’s 11-year-old understood that it costs money to heat water and suggested shorter showers.

The older the child, the more details you can share and the more they may be able to do to help. But Ching warns parents not to abandon their role or force their children to grow up too fast. Teenagers “can empathize and put themselves in the parent’s shoes,” she says, but there’s a danger “that you’ll put too much responsibility on them and they have to parent the parent.” Teenagers “shouldn’t drop out of school and get a job to support the parent,” says Ching.

In fact, says Newman, a family economic crisis may give parents a rare chance to regain lost leadership: “If nothing else, it gives you a chance to say ‘no,’ and to teach children lessons, concepts, and skills they will need as they mature.”

Take care of yourself

Stressful times call for extra attention to physical well-being. “A sturdy body and mind” is part of what Halzman calls the “resiliency toolkit.” He explains: “If you’re well-nourished and you take care of your body, you will be able to withstand the emotional and physical wear and tear.”

You should exercise, eat right, and stay rested not just for your own sake but for that of your children, who need you to be steady and stable. “Parents should take inventory and manage their stress well,” says Ching, “so that they’re not walking through the house all day wearing everything on their sleeve.”

Just as you watch for signs of stress in your own behavior, watch for it in others. Withdrawing, fighting, and separation anxiety all are signs in your kids that the tension is getting to them. It’s time then to do something good for yourself and for them, like taking a walk or a bike ride together.

Resource

“Dollars and Sense: Talking to Your Children About the Economy,” The American Psychological Association

By Tom Gray
Source: Scott Halzman, MD; Susan Newman, PhD; June Ching, PhD

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