Job Loss and the Affect on Children
a job or steady income can affect the adult who is no longer working, but also affects the children in the home. Often
adults get so distracted in their own grief over job loss that children's feelings, thoughts and concerns go unrecognized.
who lose work are often stressed, angry, disappointed and worried. They also worry about how to talk to their children about
this difficult topic.
Be patient, understanding and encourage kids to ask questions.
Many parents want to spare their children the harsh reality, but it is always
best to be honest. It is far worse for children to hear about a parent losing a job from someone else. This only intensifies
feelings of panic, anxiety, and anger.
Children will pick
up signals in the home that something is wrong. When they arent' told the truth, their imagination runs away and is far
worse than the truth.
For Children Under 5: be simple and concrete. Children at this age are most concerned about
their personal safety and need assurance that they will be cared for. They need to know that the job loss was not their
fault and they have done nothing wrong.
For Children aged 6-9: Are concerned with right and wrong and may have trouble understanding that job loss may
be unfair. Provide information as they ask for it.
For Children aged 10-12: Can put facts together in more complicated ways and can understand everyday effects
of job loss. Can contribute ideas to budget planning.
For Teenagers: Capable of understanding the consequences of the job loss and can discuss issues in more detail.
They understand the more subtle effects as well. Can be helpful in problem solving. Fears that they won't be able to go
to college are common at this age. Discussion is important.
Job loss is scary for children. They depend on their parents or guardians
for emotional security. When adults are tense, upset, and inattentive, much of this feeling of security is gone. Communication
is key when it comes to talking to children about job loss and how it will affect them.
Change in income can mean lifestyle changes for the entire family. There is less money to spend,
so it is important to make decisions about spending what money is available. It also may mean a move to a new location to
find employment, away from friends and extended family, school and familiar routines.
There may be less family time. Also the other parent may now need to work a second job, start
work or pick up extra hours, which is more change.
who are not ashamed to express fears, anxieties, and sorrows and willing to seek help from others, deal with crisis the most
successfully. Children who see their parents exhibit this behavior will be more likely to cope with stress as adults",
according to Debbie Richardson, OSU, parenting specialist.
Maintain household routines as much as possible.
Keep major changes to a minimum, although some may be unavoidable.
Help your children by helping yourself first.
Recognize symptoms of stress including: sleeplessness, digestive disturbances, headaches, angry
outbursts, appetite changes.
Eat balanced meals
and get enough rest and exercise to discharge energy.
children to focus on the positive aspects of their lives.
Help them to see that they are not the only family affected and perhaps they can talk with other families and find
out how they are coping and what is helping them.
children by letting them know you're taking action and job hunting.
Involve children in helping out at home, with babysitting, household chores, but don't make them think
they are responsible for supporting the family.
a model for your children on how to solve problems, how to deal with a crisis and how to make decisions. When they see you
handle a situation with confidence they learn that they too can handle lifes' challenges.
Assure kids that losing jobs affects many people and that it is a temporary situation, not a
Don't depend on your children
for emotional support. Sharing too much can cause undue stress in them.
Spend time together doing low-cost or no-cost activities. Some families take this opportunity and spend
quality family time together, that they did not have prior to the job loss, Remember kids love down time with
parents and just time to hang out. Those times can be priceless. They will remember the time with you long after they will
have forgotten about the job loss.
listening is as important as talking. 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.
Adapted from the NYU Child Study Center, NY, NY. and from the Oklahoma State University
Coorperative Extension Service.