Guest Author - Dianne Walker
The scenario has played in millions of homes across the country. You went into work in the morning and by afternoon you found out that you've lost your job. It doesnít matter if you were fired or laid off; the emotional impact is the same. Now youíre faced with the task of telling your family. Your spouse may understand, but the hardest part will be what to tell your kids.
Call a family meeting to discuss the lay off. Keep in mind that the reaction will be dependent upon the age and maturity of the child. Small children wonít understand the impact. Once pre-teens and teenagers understand the full ramifications, they may throw a temper tantrum the likes you may not have seen since they were toddlers. As youíre speaking, you will want to gage their reactions and how much news they can handle and adjust accordingly.
It is important that your kids realize the lay off is not about something you did or didnít do. Start off with key definitions and a quick lesson on current economic events tailored to your audience. You may want to explain the difference between a lay off and termination. They need to understand that being laid off can happen to anybody; neither age, title nor the fact that you were an exceptional employee matters. You want them to know that the company has downsized and provide a very simple explanation of why. A general idea of the economic downturn and simplified definitions may help your kids to deal with all the changes that are about to take place.
As a laid off employee you will go through an array of emotions including stress, depression and anger. Itís only human. Explain this to your children so that they know that youíre not angry at them. Kids tend to worry when they see their parent behaving out of their normal character. You may also see the same emotions from your kids depending on their age. Itís important, however, that the kids understand that this is not a reason for them to act out at school. Continue to watch for signs that your child is struggling both during and after the conversation. If you find that you are unable to deal with your emotions, find someone to talk to. You may not be able to afford a counselor, but you can talk to a close friend or even someone from your church. You can also start a journal and release some of your anger on paper.
Money is probably the most important conversation of all that youíll need to have with your kids. Even if youíre receiving unemployment, income will definitely be a lot less when youíre out of work. Now is the time to talk about finances so the kids will realize that there will be some dramatic changes. For example, the kids may need to forgo their weekly allowance, or get out the habit of eating dinner out a lot. If you have already prepared a budget, let them take a look so that they can understand why they canít have those new jeans for the party. You may also need to cut off the cable television. That alone will be change of cataclysmic proportions to a teenager.
If your unemployment situation continues on for some time, you may need to have additional conversations with your kids. For example, if you are facing foreclosure of your home, itís best to let the kids know that you may need to move. Waiting until the day you start packing boxes is never a good idea. This talk will be particularly hard if your kids are in their last year of high school. Be prepared!!!
When you have a family, getting laid off does not affect just you. While your youngest may not understand the full ramifications of joblessness, a teenager or college bound child will suddenly feel as if their entire life has been uprooted. Itís important that you sit down and have a frank discussion with them. Itís important for children to continue to feel safe, secure and protected by their parents. Most of the news youíll share with them may seem depressing, so help them to see a bright side. For a temporary amount of time, you will be home to spend more time with the family.
When youíre laid off, neither you nor your family have any choice in the matter. Successful navigation through your time of unemployment requires the ďbuy inĒ from the entire family to work together. Let them help you work on the family budget to determine what activities can be considered a luxury and will need to be cut. While there may be some information that you will not share with the kids, keeping them ďin the knowĒ as much as possible, will help them to be less stressful.