The first thing we’re told when we lose a job is to tell everyone we know. This includes colleagues from the past jobs, friends, neighbors, relatives, hair stylists, convenience store owners, LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends; everybody. We tell the people we know because they can potentially help us find a job. We also tell them because they can be a support system.
But some wouldn’t consider telling the people who should be some of the first to know, their children. Too often people tell me they wouldn’t consider telling their kids because they don’t want to let them down, don’t want to seem weak in their kids’ mind. Hogwash, I say. Your children need to know about your situation if you want them to understand the meaning of life.
Dr. Julie Olson, Ph.D. in clinical psychology, at the Santa Margarita Solutions Center, asserts, “Whether you lost your job, had a pay cut or lost hours at work, as much as this could upset you and create anxiety about your financial situation, the main job you have as a parent is to give your children a sense of security and teach them how to cope with whatever comes their way.”
This especially includes telling your kids about losing your job.
I lost my job in marketing about nine years ago. It was devastating, but I felt it was important to share the news with my three kids. They had to know for a number of reasons.
- There would be changes around the house. There wouldn’t be any more shopping sprees. My eldest daughter’s steady flow of GAP and Abercrombie and Fitch clothing would be cut completely. The quality and quantity of food was going to change; but we would still eat.
- Daddy wouldn’t be going to work every morning. Instead I would be conducting a job search, which meant I would need time to be out of the house to visit the career center or local library, hit the pavement to knock on companies’ doors, and network.
- It also meant I would be acting a little different. I might be moody or distracted, but I would still love them very much. I would need them to understand that it would be a sad and frustrating time and they shouldn’t feel they were at fault. If I seemed distanced while with them, it was because I was thinking about finding work.
- This would be a fact of life. People sometimes lose their jobs more than once. It’s not a pleasant thing, but it’s temporary and will eventually pass. I couldn’t be Superman. I would need support from them and other people. In a way, this would be a great lesson for them about persevering in times of trouble.
- Most importantly, I wouldn’t lie about our situation. My oldest was smart enough to know that two, three, four…months of vacation was unrealistic. That coming home reeking of alcohol on a week day night was not normal behavior.
All came to pass after 10 months of unemployment; a day came when I found a job, and I was delighted to tell my three kids the good news. The funny thing about that day was when my son told me he didn’t want me to go back to work. Who, he wondered out loud, would take him to playgroup, or play Lego with him? At the time he asked me, I was more concerned about getting back in a working groove. Now, I miss the time I had with my children who understood at that bleak time more about life than they did when I was still working.
If you haven’t told your kids about losing your job, do it soon. As Dr. Julie Olson writes, “…teach them how to cope with whatever comes their way.”