Magazine article Work & Family Life

Helping the Family Cope with Job Layoffs

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Helping the Family Cope with Job Layoffs

Article excerpt


When his father was feeling low after being laid off, Carleton W. Kendrick

Jr. remembers his mother's family doing something extraordinary. They hosted an Italian banquet in his father's honor.

Don't misunderstand. It was not a celebration. Instead, it was a show of solidarity for his father. Kendrick, now a family therapist, was 9 at the time, but he remembers his Uncle Peter's toast, "No one can lay you off from la familia!"

Parents who experience a layoff or change in their financial status might take a page from the Kendrick family album. The power in that message of family support is as much for children as it is for parents. It's our responsibility to bear the pain and distress of job loss, but how we handle this or any crisis has repercussions for children of all ages.

While we want to shield kids from the gory details and our own agony over how to make ends meet, not even young children should be spared the basic facts.

Be truthful in an age-appropriate way

Children don't need your words to know something is wrong, and in the absence of information, their imaginations can take over. Wait until it happens to tell, unless a company's impending layoffs are in the news. In this case, Kendrick suggests telling a young child: "You may have heard my company is telling some employees they can't work there anymore. It may happen to me. As soon as I hear anything, I promise to tell you."

Children under 7 don't need much information: "I don't have a job anymore. The company doesn't need as many workers." With older children, explain how these things happen, for instance, by seniority. Kids of all ages need to hear three important messages:

Mom/Dad didn't do anything wrong. Children's frame of reference tends to revolve around blame. Unless you say so, they will likely assume you did something wrong. This becomes more important as time passes. ("I can't take ballet because stupid mom lost her job. …

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