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Talking to Kids About a Job Loss

talking to kids about job loss

The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked massive job losses since March. Some 15% of adults, according to a September report from the Pew Research Center, reported that they were laid off or lost jobs because of the global health crisis. Half of those people said they remained unemployed.

Parents, in particular, have faced challenges. In an October survey, Pew found that the share of mothers and fathers who were employed in September 2020 was smaller than those in September 2019. If they haven’t lost their job, many were expecting to cut their hours during the school year to ensure somebody is home with the kids while they participate in virtual school, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Board.

Those job losses and smaller paychecks are forcing tough decisions in households across the country as parents wonder how they’ll pay the rent or cover groceries and their kids start making Christmas lists.

Why kids should know about a job loss

Some parents may be eager to hide the job loss from their children, not wanting to worry them or because they’re embarrassed that they might have trouble providing for their family. But Dr. Kate Roberts, a licensed psychologist and family therapist, recommends parents tell their kids the truth.

When there is a family crisis, Roberts writes in Psychology Today, whether it’s a job loss or another issue, children can sense that something is wrong.

“When parents fail to communicate directly, children fill in the blanks with the worst,” she writes. “Parents don’t realize this and instead they think that they’re helping their child by keeping them from knowing the crisis is present. But in the end, they are giving their child permission to worry about the worst-case scenario because that’s naturally where the child’s brain goes.”

Roberts recommends communicating the news directly with the child, reframing it as an opportunity to spend some quality time together and demonstrating that you have a plan that can work.

Explain the impact

While it’s easy to be mad, frustrated and sad after a job loss, especially an unexpected one, Beech Acres Parenting Center in Ohio recommends collecting your own thoughts and emotions before broaching the topic with your kids.

Once you’re ready to talk to your kids, explain how the job loss will impact the family’s day-to-day life, according to the parenting center. Ordering pizza out every Friday night might now turn into making homemade pizza together.

“If your children are old enough you can teach them about the strength of prudence by discussing finances and the economic struggles that may accompany a prolonged period of unemployment,” the parenting center writes.

Help them cope

As you move forward, understand that your kids may have ongoing questions or concerns. They might be worried that there won’t be any gifts under the tree at Christmas or that college is now out of the question. Experts recommend being open and honest, in an age-appropriate way, about the latest on your job search.

For young children, Sesame Street’s Caring for Each Other series offers some advice and resources on teaching kids about needs versus wants and ways to soothe and comfort children during tough and stressful times.

Tweens and teens will be more cognizant of what a job loss could mean for their family. According to Grief Speaks, they can be helpful, contributing to budget planning and problem solving. Discussion, the group says, is important.

As you all come to terms with what a job loss means, experts recommend it’s always a good idea to find ways to be together and listen.

“Remember that listening is as important as talking,” according to Grief Speaks. “Everyone needs someone to listen to them, and children are no exception. Listen to the children’s thoughts and feelings and respond with concern and understanding. This is crucial for families going through tough times.”

If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, CESI is here to help. Our counselors are available to assist if you are experiencing job loss, temporary loss of income, or financial hardship during this time. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.

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