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How do I talk to my kids about layoffs and tough financial times?

Michele Borba
Psychology
Believe me; your children are far better off hearing this news straight from your mouth. So where do you begin to talk to your child about such a tough topic as a job layoff or financial crisis? Here are a few guidelines to get you started.

Keep the explanation simple and age appropriate. Young children are literal so watch your terminology. “I lost my job,” may make a kid wonder: “So why don’t you find it?” “I was fired” might mean someone is trying to shoot you. “I was let go” could be construed as why your friends didn’t grab onto you tighter. Terms such as layoffs, recession, foreclosure, and downsizing confuse a teen. You might start with a question: “What have you heard?” or a simple explanation: “I don’t have a job anymore so for a while we won’t have as much money to pay for things.”
Describe the potential impact on your family. Most kids’ prime concern is how this personally affects them. So be honest and clear about any foreseeable changes. For instance: Dining out less. Not going to movies. More bag lunches. Less allowance.
Be prepared for any response. Some kids will shut down. Others might be angry or cry. This is not the time to discipline or try talking them out of their feelings. Acknowledge their pain, confusion, anger or hurt. Then tailor your response to their response.
Explain your plan for new employment. Kids don’t need a lengthy discussion so just briefly explain that you’re seeking a new job and it may take a while. Knowing that you have a “plan” (even if you have no idea what to do) helps kids feel secure.
Involve your kids so they feel they are part of the solution. Ask them for cost-cutting ideas to help your family reduce costs. For instance, mention that turning off the lights will conserve energy. Then ask them for other suggestions.
Try to appear optimistic even in the worst-case scenario. Your children will be watching your behavior closely and take their lead from your attitude. Your aim is to give your kids the impression that you’re confident everything will turn out for the best. (And that’s even if you’re a nervous wreck inside).

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Keep the explanation simple and age appropriate. Young children are literal so watch your terminology.

Describe the potential impact on your family. Most kids’ prime concern is how this personally affects them. So be honest and clear about any foreseeable changes.

Be prepared for any response. Some kids will shut down. Others might be angry or cry. This is not the time to discipline or try talking them out of their feelings. Acknowledge their pain, confusion, anger or hurt. Then tailor your response to their response.

Explain your plan for new employment. Kids don’t need a lengthy discussion so just briefly explain that you’re seeking a new job and it may take a while. Knowing that you have a “plan” (even if you have no idea what to do) helps kids feel secure.

Involve your kids so they feel they are part of the solution. Ask them for cost-cutting ideas to help your family reduce costs. For instance, mention that turning off the lights will conserve energy. Then ask them for other suggestions.

Try to maintain optimism even in the worst-case scenario. Your children will be watching your behavior closely and take their lead from your attitude.

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    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.