Losing a job certainly takes a toll on the person who lost the job. However, when a parent looses a job, everyone in the family is significantly affected.
One of the more obvious changes for families is the reduced income. When a parent looses a job, lifestyle changes are often required. Decisions have to be made about how to spend what money there is. Relied upon extras, such as childcare, extracurricular activities, and various forms of entertainment, often have to be cutoff.
Other, more drastic family changes may result from unemployment. The other family members may have to find employment or increase their hours at work. This change may lead to less family time together. Finding employment may necessitate relocating to a new city. The children may have difficulty and resentment leaving their schools, friends and routine.
Emotional responses from household family members may result from both the reactions to the unemployed parent as well as to the job loss itself. The unemployed parent may withdraw from family members and show signs of depression. There may be more conflict between the parents due to the increased stressors. These challenges increase the discomfort during this period of time, especially for the children. Job loss is frightening for children. They rely on their parents for emotional support. When parents are in distress, the children feel a loss of security.
There are several ways to reduce the negative emotional impact of job loss:
1. Inform the children of the job loss. It is scarier for them to be aware of negative changes and not know what they are. Their imaginations take over.
2. Maintain household routines and keep change to a minimum, as much as possible.
3. Help the children by helping yourself: eat balanced meals, recognize and address signs of stress such as headaches, sleeplessness, digestive problems, angry outbursts and appetite changes.
4. Be on the look out for these signs of stress in the children, too.
5. Have the family discuss their feelings, thoughts and concerns about the job loss situation.
6. Find low or no cost ways to spend family time together.
7. Focus on the positives like having good friends, a loving family, good health, etc.
8. Assure the kids (and yourself) that the job loss is a temporary condition that affects many other people.
9. Use this situation to role-model for the children how to handle a life-crises and use problem-solving skills. Children who see their parents handle stressful situations well are more likely to handle stressful situations successfully as adults.
Holly Houston, Ph.D.