Layoffs happen daily in America. For some, it can be an emotional and financial hardship. When you have kids and a family, the difficulty is compounded and it can be hard to know the best way to address the situation with your children. Here are some things to consider as you begin to frame what you’ll say to your kids.
Be Upfront in a Gentle Way
Children don’t know what a recession is. They don’t understand what the Dow Jones does and they have no interest in falling oil prices. When you’re telling your children about your layoff, tell them in simple, gentle terms. You can start by telling them people change jobs all the time and that’s what you’re going to do. You will be home more than usual while you look for a new job, but everything will be OK. Chances are, they’ll accept this just fine and will probably look forward to having you home more.
Leave the Door Open to Talk about Feelings
As with most everything, an open line of communication is going to be key to your family getting through the layoff together. Be upfront (reasonably) with your children if you’re feeling stressed out, upset or angry, but reassure them they’re not the cause. Explain in words they can understand how you plan to deal with the situation. Doing so will help give them a sense of security from knowing there will be structure. Not talking about the elephant in the room isn’t going to do anyone any good. Children will sense that something is amiss and it will only breed an environment of fear and uncertainty if they don’t know what it’s about. Have them talk to you about their feelings. Depending on their ages, they might not fully grasp the situation and will just be excited you’re more available. Older children may worry about whether there will be enough money for food or losing the family home. It’s also important to hear their concerns so you can help them deal with change in a positive way and provide as much reassurance as you can without creating a false sense of security.
Help Them to Feel Secure
Encourage your children to help around the house. Knowing they’re helping out in tough times makes children feel good about themselves. Stick to your usual routines as much as possible. Children like and need predictable routines and familiar activities can be comforting to children going through a confusing time.
Try to keep other major life changes that affect them at bay for now. This means you might want to wait until things get back to normal until you try moving them to a new, bigger bed, starting them in a new Mother’s Day Out program or potty training. Too many changes at once can make children feel insecure.
You also need to take care of yourself during this time. One of the most important things your child can see is that the person they know you to be hasn’t changed. So get up early like you normally would, get out of your pajamas and make sure you don’t turn to things like alcohol during this time. It can be easy to fall into depression when things are uncertain, but now more than ever your children need you to take care of yourself so they can feel safe.
Dr. Jennifer Lai is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center. She’s accepting appointments for kids of all ages. Her clinical interests include general Pediatrics, newborns, autism and obesity.