How to Talk With Your Children About Losing Your Job

Finding oneself out of work is stressful. Explaining it to one’s child can be the worst component of the situation. How to convince your child that everything is going to be OK isn’t easy, especially when you’re not sure you believe it yourself. But doing just that helps considerably. Here are some strategies to consider.

1. One has to accept that this happens. Unfortunately, it’s common. But it’s not the end of the world. And that’s something the unemployed person needs to embrace. Is it challenging? Absolutely. Still, it’s not the end of the world. But the unemployed person has every right to let off some steam. Screaming, crying or pounding a fist are options. All are best not done in the presence of children, as they could be scary for them.

2. Having a conversation with a child who is around age seven or eight or more, is important. It’s reasonable to tell the child that what’s happened isn’t ideal and that it’s a bit scary. Still, you can convey that you’re keen to view this as an exercise that’s going to be like a big test. One that will demand you talk to many people. One that will include some lousy days. But a test that should, in time, come with good results.

3. Make sure that the child can ask questions. The obvious question is: how will this change our lives? Well, it’s likely that it will change things both short and long term. And you’re allowed to say that to some degree, it’s going to make things different but you’re unsure of how long. Ideally, in the short term, you will have severance and, perhaps some savings, to minimize the impact. Do let the child know that if at any point they have questions, they should ask.

4. One thought that is important and should be communicated is that someone can lose their job even when they’re doing good work. Sometimes, because a company needs to make changes because it’s not earning enough revenue, decreasing the number of employees is viewed as a solution. And when it happens, even good employees lose their jobs. Make the distinction between being laid off versus being fired.

5. One of the best remedies to this challenge is to exercise and laugh. If possible increase your time outside whether it’s to take a walk, play a pick up game of basketball or smack tennis balls against a backboard. Include your child. This is likely to help them release some of the stress they’re likely to feel as they process the news. Any chance you can, read funny books, tell funny stories or watch a funny film with your children. This will allow both of you to relax and feel better about things. A Marx Brothers film is a great distraction when you’re navigating a job search.

6. When you do have an interview, let your child know that you expect to have to have many interviews before you find a new job. Share with them that it will likely take longer than you’d like but each interview is an opportunity to get better at interviewing. This is likely to be the case. Being forthcoming about this will make it easier for both you and your child to endure the process.

7. One advantage of being laid off is that you should be home more. This means that you might be able to spend more time with your child. Relish it. Have fun with them. If you need to answer an important call or email, explain that you need to be attentive, even if it means that for a bit, you can’t give them (i.e. your child) attention.

8. If you think you’re going to get a job offer, wait until you’re actually reading the offer, before you announce that you have a job. Too often, someone can have a positive interview process and even references can be checked and a candidate can be told to expect an offer and then, whoops, nothing happens. Best to abstain from telling your child until you can say, I have a job offer and I can see it in front of me.

No one goes through life without hitting some bumps in the road. And some bumps are very challenging. Make your best effort to be honest with your child. Let them know you’re going to do what you can and that you’re hopeful things will fall into place sooner versus later.

And when you do get your new job, remind yourself and your child how pleased you are to be back to work. Because the next time you have a difficult day at work, it’s likely your child will remind you how fortunate you are to have a job. And that could be good for both of you.