5 reasons to tell your children you lost your job

Family Dinner

I tell my customers the first thing they need to do is tell everyone they know that they are unemployed. This includes former colleagues; friends; neighbors; relatives; hair stylists; convenience store owners; LinkedIn connections; Facebook friends; and even people they meet for the first time, providing the moment is right.

Most of my customers are amenable to spreading the word far and wide. They know that at any time someone may be able to provide a lead or offer sage advice. Sometimes this happens in my workshops.

But some don’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 them to worry, are afraid their children will lose faith in them.

Hogwash, I tell them. Your children need to know about your situation if you want them to understand the meaning of life.

Dr. Julie Olson, Ph.D. a 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.”

I lost my job in marketing about 12 years ago. It was devastating, but I felt it was important to share the news with my three kids. I told them the day I was laid off. Yes it was a humbling experience, but they had to know for a number of reasons.

  1. 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 significantly. The quality and quantity of food was going to change; but we would still eat.
  2. 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. I would need a quiet environment to write résumés and cover letters, or make follow-up calls.
  3. 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 but they shouldn’t feel they were at fault. If I seemed distanced while with them, it was because I was thinking about finding work. For little people this can be hard to understand.
  4. Losing a job is 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.
  5. We would focus on the important things in life. Although a job loss is temporary, the duration of unemployment can be longer than expected. That year Christmas was celebrated like usual. The kids didn’t get all they wanted, and my wife and I went without gifts; but we still celebrated the holiday. I don’t think the kids thought once about our situation.

All came to pass after six months of unemployment. 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 told me he wanted me to stay home, 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.”

Photo: Flickr, Steve Kerrison

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